Seeds of Empire: The American Revolutionary Conquest of the Iroquois

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Fri Jan 28 08:03:11 MST 2000



H-NET BOOK REVIEW Published by H-War at h-net.msu.edu (December, 1999)

Max M. Mintz. _H-NET BOOK REVIEW Published by H-War at h-net.msu.edu
(December, 1999)

Max M. Mintz. _Seeds of Empire: The American Revolutionary Conquest of the
Iroquois_. The World of War Series. New York and London: New York
University Press, 1999. xi + 232 pp. Illustrations, maps, notes, index.
$28.95 (cloth), ISBN 0-8147-5622-0.

Reviewed by Charles C. Kolb <ckolb at neh.gov>, National Endowment for the
Humanities

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are those of the reviewer and
not of his employer or any other federal agency.]

>From Six Nations to Conquered Provinces: The American Revolution and the
Iroquois

This book focuses upon the American military campaigns against the Loyalist
Iroquois and their Tory allies during the years 1777 through 1779. The
title for my review paraphrases General George Washington who considered
the lands of the Six Nations to be "conquered provinces" (7 September
1783). The title for the book derives from a letter from one of General
Sullivan's young Continental army lieutenants who wrote that "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
ostensibly to destroy but may it not transpire that we pillagers are
carelessly sowing the seeds of Empire?" (p. 186).

Mintz, professor emeritus of history at Southern Connecticut State
University, is the author of two other books on the American Revolution. He
writes that the revolution was "not only a struggle for independence, but
also for the lands of the Indians, and the jewel was the upstate New York
domain of the Iroquois' Six Nations. The fertile Mohawk, Susquehanna, and
Allegheny broad river valleys were a magnet for farmers weary of contending
with New England's stubborn soil. The route westward along the southern
shore of Lake Erie offered a pass through the Appalachian mountain chain
and beyond to the Mississippi" (p. 1).

Structurally, _Seeds of Empire_ includes acknowledgments, a prologue,
thirteen chapters, an epilogue, and list of abbreviations, notes, and an
index. 23 black-and-white illustrations and six maps supplement the
narrative. The illustrations are, in the main, reproductions of portraits
of some of the important personages who figure prominently in the
narrative. There are no separate bibliographies or references cited, but a
total of 320 endnotes (6 to 34 per chapter) are included, and depend upon a
list of 36 abbreviations, mostly acronyms. A nine-page double column index
is confined to proper nouns and does not incorporate topics.

I shall review Mintz's presentation, then proceed to a critique and
comparison of _Seeds of Empire_ with Barbara Graymont's classic work, _The
Iroquois in the American Revolution_ (1972) [1], the best account of the
Iroquois side of the campaigns, and military historian Joseph R. Fischer's
_A Well-Executed Failure: The Sullivan Campaign against the Iroquois,
July-September 1779_ (1997) [2], which provides an analysis of the
Continental army's first expedition against Indians. _Seeds of Empire_ is a
synthesis of the military actions between the Loyalists and Indian allies
on one side and the rebel American colonials and their Indian allies on the
other. It is a comprehensive retelling of the story of the struggle in New
York and Pennsylvania between the American colonists and the American
Indians, both native and recent migrants to that region. Likewise, it
documents the initial attempt in 1779 by the Continental army in its first
Indian campaign and assesses its successes and failures. The conflict was
not simply between the British and the Colonists. Indeed, Euro-Americans,
black Loyalist and colonist freemen and slaves, and American Indians were
included among the diverse groups drawn into the war. The Indians included
even more heterogeneous peoples, in the main among these the
Iroquois-speaking tribes of the northeastern United States. The Iroquois
homeland in upstate New York controlled important trade routes from the
Great Lakes through the Finger Lakes Region and Mohawk Valley to Albany.

Mintz begins ca. 1773, documenting the schism that developed among the six
Iroquois nations, with the Oneida and Tuscarora espousing the rebel
"American" cause, while Loyalist Iroquois, led by the Mohawk Joseph Brant,
and the other three tribes allied with the British. Brant (1742-1807)
learned English, was an Anglican missionary, and fought for the British
during the French and Indian War. He was presented to the court of King
George III in 1775 and received a commission as a captain in 1776, serving
as a British officer until 1783. The infamous ambush and decimation of
General Nicholas Herkimer's troops by St Leger's forces and Brandt's
Iroquois at the Battle of Oriskany on 6 August 1777 is recounted. In spite
of the defeat of the Americans and their retreat at Oriskany, the Loyalists
were unable to capture Fort Stanwix and they retreated. With this important
action, the war took a new turn, for as Mintz notes, "the Indians would no
longer serve as auxiliaries in a British force of professional soldiers
fighting an American force of professional soldiers. They were to direct
their main offensive against civilian centers, destroy private residences,
and take the lives of noncombatants of both sexes and all ages" (p. 45).
Mintz next documents the backcountry raids by the Iroquois in late 1777 and
early 1778 in upstate New York and northern Pennsylvania. Notable among the
Indian attacks was the Wyoming Valley Massacre of 3 July 1778. That rampage
led the American Congress, the Board of War, and General Washington to
formulate a major retaliatory offensive and defensive plan of action. The
planning and execution of the Sullivan, Clinton, and Brodhead Campaign of
1779 occupies the subsequent eight chapters of Mintz's book (pp. 75-172).
Graymont [1] covers briefly the same period (pp. 192-241), while Fischer
[2] provides 265 pages on the same topic from a professional military
perspective.

New Hampshire lawyer Major-General John Sullivan had military experience at
Boston, Quebec, and Trenton from 1774-1776, and was selected as commander
of the punitive expedition, although known for his "contentiousness" (p.
100). Brigadier General James Clinton's forces joined with Sullivan near
Tioga. At the Battle of Newtown on 29 August 1779, 700 Indians and Loyalist
rangers under John Butler and Brant faced a combined force of nearly 5,000
under Clinton and Brigadier General Enoch Poor. Although the Americans
failed to close a planned pincer-like trap and Butler and Brant escaped
with some of their men, the battle was an overwhelming victory for
Sullivan's army. Iroquois houses and cornfields were burned and the army
continued up the Chemung River into the Iroquois heartland. Displaced
Iroquois warriors and civilians, and their allies streamed toward Niagara,
compounding housing and supply problems at that base. Villages and
croplands on the Seneca River, others at the north ends of Seneca and
Cayuga lakes, and Chenussio ("grand capital of the Indian country") were
destroyed. On the return trip, Sullivan targeted the Cayuga villages,
croplands, and orchards on the east and west sides of Lake Cayuga, before
the army returned to Tioga and then to Easton. Mintz summarizes that "a
draconian tide of desolation" swept through Iroquoia.

The third component of Washington's Sullivan-Clinton-Brodhead strategy
involved a successful diversion. Colonel Daniel Brodhead, Commander of the
Western Department and Fourth Pennsylvania Continental Regiment at Fort
Pitt led 605 men up the Allegheny River Valley on 11 August. There were
minor skirmishes with Seneca and Muncy Delaware, and the force proceeded
unopposed to Bucktooth (Salamanca, New York). The force returned to Fort
Pitt on 14 September, having destroyed more than 500 acres of crops and 130
houses in three Seneca villages in the Kinzua area (Warren, Pennsylvania).
None of Brodhead's men were killed or taken prisoner. Graymont (pp.
214-215) and Starkey (pp. 123-127) write briefly on this expedition.

Sullivan leveled 32 Indian villages and destroyed 160,000 bushels of corn,
but his overly cautious nature, demands for overwhelming numbers of troops
and extraordinary amounts of supplies, lack of field reports, and his
braggadocio did not sit well with Washington, who sent Sullivan a one
sentence congratulatory letter. Mintz contends that "if Sullivan's
assignment was to eradicate the villages and sustenance of the Iroquois, he
had succeeded. But if his mission was to eliminate the Iroquois threat to
the European occupation of the Six Nations heartland, he had achieved only
a momentary respite" (p. 154). Surprised by the government's "cool"
reception, Sullivan retired from military service on 9 November 1779.
Washington thought that Sullivan had allowed the enemy to escape at Newtown
and failed to attack Fort Niagara. In the autumn of 1779, Niagara had only
a garrison of 400 and was overwhelmed by 5,000 refugees from Iroquoia by
January 1780. The winter of 1779-1780 proved to be one of the harshest on
record, but from February to September 1780 Butler sent out 59 war parties
to attack American settlements in the Mohawk, Delaware, Susquehanna, and
Juniata River valleys. New York's Governor Clinton estimated 200 dwellings
were burned and 150,000 bushels of grain were destroyed (p. 168), but other
Tory attacks were ineffective. With the surrender of British General
Cornwalis at Yorktown in November 1781, the reconquest of the Iroquois
homeland was not possible, and the Indians were caught between British
retrenchment and American annihilation. These Iroquois felt betrayed by the
British and were a subdued people dependent upon Canada. A reaffirmation of
the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix occurred in October 1784. In the book's
"Epilogue," Mintz writes "the Iroquois found themselves powerless to resist
the post-Revolutionary takeover and peopling of their heartland by the new
American nation" (p. 183). He then catalogues the attempts by New York
State to systematically dispossess the Loyalist Indians of their lands by
threat, deception, and guile. The Six Nations Reserve near Brantford,
Ontario and Seneca land retention and sales are touched upon as Mintz
brings the reader quickly up to February 1999 in a few paragraphs.

Mintz uses the standard British and Canadian primary sources and a
selection of original documents (letters, papers, diaries, journals, order
books, and minute books). He "mines" these sources for useful information
and presents his detailed, exceedingly well-referenced narrative. There are
fascinating connections revealed -- men who were brothers-in-laws; Loyalist
Indians who were, like some rebel opponents, Freemasons - and he comments
on the backgrounds of staff and rank-and-file officers, some of whom were
lawyers or physicians while others were unschooled, skilled frontiersmen.
Black Loyalist and rebel soldiers, slaves, free blacks among the Iroquois,
and a black physician also served during the struggle. The military
strategies, tactics, and logistics are also documented briefly and the
personnel strengths of military units and atrocities on both sides are
recounted. Curiously, there is a redundant story about American compassion
for an old Cayuga woman with slight variations (pp. 128-129, 134-135). In
some instances the reader must be careful to discern correctly the person
about whom Mintz refers because there are multiple Butlers (John, Richard,
Walter, William, and Zebulon), Clintons (George, Sir Henry, and James), and
Johnsons (Francis, Guy, Sir John, Sir William, and William). Some fought on
opposite sides and even against one another in the same battle, so that the
reader must pay careful attention. Mintz often includes present-day
community names and highway routes where Indian trails or expedition roads
once existed, helping to orient the reader to the current cultural
geography. He writes (p. 4) that more soldiers' diaries survive for this
campaign than for any other in the American Revolution, and he made
extensive use of these primary documents.

Graymont's _Iroquois in the American Revolution_ (published in 1972 and
still in print), is the most comprehensive assessment of the topic of
Indians and the War for Independence.[1] She begins ca. 1710 by providing
information on the six tribes and the context for the conflict, and
contains a more detailed background on Iroquois attempt to maintain
neutrality. Likewise, there is important material on the immediate results
and long-term effects of the American Revolution on the native populations.
Graymont discusses the Sullivan-Clinton-Brodhead expeditions in some detail
(pp. 192-241) in her more broadly conceived volume, while Starkey [3]
provides only an overview (pp.118-125). Fischer's _A Well-Executed Failure_
(1997) is a brilliant military analysis of the Continental Army's first
expedition against Indians.[2] He focuses upon army field operations;
therefore, his book is different from Mintz's volume. Fischer writes (p.
190) that "in a broad sense Sullivan's expedition turned up problems in the
relationship among the government, its people, and the military that would
plague the nation for decades." Government assumptions about the virtue and
altruism of its citizens had been proven false, while the citizens expected
more help than they received from the Continental Army. However, the
neonate federal government lacked the ability of coercion in the face of
strong political systems in New York and Pennsylvania. Fischer contends
that the "well-executed failure" was the responsibility of Washington
rather than Sullivan. While the former hoped that Niagara would be taken,
he did not provide the means for Sullivan to accomplish this goal.
Sullivan's scorched-earth offensive in Iroquoia served as a catalyst to
rally the Iroquois to the British cause, particularly because the British
were able to maintain their Indian allies during the harsh winter. An
advantage of Fischer's book is that there are plans of military formations
and a separate selected bibliography with individual sections on manuscript
sources, printed primary sources, and secondary sources.

Fischer's evaluation of Washington's offensive and defensive strategy
concludes that the Continental Army grew in sophistication with respect to
operational planning. The firm decision was made that the initial priority
was to destroy the Seneca because they were the most populous of the
Iroquois and provided almost half of the native warriors. Washington's
intelligence-gathering network formed the foundation for the operational
scheme, while the British suffered intelligence failures and failed to
recognize the veracity of the Iroquois about American strength (p. 42, 60).
Tactically, Sullivan's force was a "typical European-style army in its
configuration for battle in the wilderness" (p. 61 [2]). Fischer contends
that "the Iroquois focused their attention on fighting in 1778, and their
farming had suffered as a result" (p. 84). I find this an invalid
assumption for several reasons. Traditionally, Iroquois women were
responsible for the horticulture while men hunted and conducted warfare.
During 1778, the Americans did not molest Indian villages or crops, but the
rich harvest of 1779 destroyed by the American expeditions indicates that
much land was under cultivation and substantial quantities of corn were
harvested. Logistically, seven of ten British supply ships arrived in
Quebec in August 1779, so that sufficient supplies were available in
Montreal, Niagara, and Detroit. Sullivan and Clinton's forces were obliged
to forage for food in Seneca and Cayuga country because of spoiled and
inadequate food and transportation problems, but Clinton had less of a
problem because supplies had been stockpiled at Lake Otsego during the
previous year in preparation for the attack on Canada that had been called
off (p. 186 [2]). Washington, Fischer contends, never understood the scope
of the food supply problem and the failure to inform the Commissary
Department of Sullivan's needs; "from the standpoint of logistics, it
failed at the strategic level" wrote Fischer (pp. 115-119, 125 [2]).
Therefore, he concludes that Sullivan was not to blame and stresses that
the failure to take Niagara was the fault of the ultimate commander, George
Washington.

Your reviewer was particularly struck by parallels to British and American
political and military strategies elsewhere in the world. For example, "The
Great Game," the politico-economic power struggle between Russia and
Britain for control of Afghanistan. In this conflict Britain sought to
prevent a Russian presence in the Gulf of Arabia, the Indian Ocean, and the
Indian Subcontinent by enlisting local allies. The Iroquois found that
their faith in the British was misplaced and that they, too, were pawns to
be manipulated for the benefit of the Crown (Fischer, p. 88). The British
"Great Game" strategy of divide and conquer was applied in the Colonial
wars in North America, India, and South and East Africa.

_Seeds of Empire_ is an engaging synthesis and assessment of a component of
one of the most significant episodes in American cultural and military
history. It is compelling history and comprehensive in outlook, considering
the struggle in New York and Pennsylvania between American colonists and
American Indians native to that region - the Iroquois. This is excellent
scholarship, superior in some ways to other accounts in that it details the
conflict of the Tories and their Indian allies against the American
settlers, the Continental Army, and their native allies. No other volume
treats all of the major battles and expeditions for the decade 1773-1783.
Fischer's meticulous evaluation of the Sullivan-Clinton campaign is
essential reading in order to understand the strategy, tactics, logistics,
leadership, and civilian-military interactions. Therefore, Mintz's book may
be read alone or in conjunction with other syntheses and is useful for
scholars and students of the Colonial era, the American Revolution, and
military history.

REFERENCES CITED

[1]. Barbara Graymont. _The Iroquois in the American Revolution_. Syracuse,
NY: Syracuse University Press, 1972.

[2]. Joseph R. Fischer. _A Well-Executed Failure: The Sullivan Campaign
against the Iroquois, July-September 1779_. Columbia: University of South
Carolina Press, 1997.

[3]. Armstrong Starkey. _European and Native American Warfare, 1675-1815_.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999.

 Copyright (c) 1999 by H-Net, all rights reserved. This work may be copied
for non-profit educational use if proper credit is given to the author and
the list. For other permission, please contact H-Net at h-net.msu.edu.



Charles W. Sanders, Jr. Book Review Editor, H-War Kansas State University
<hwarbook at ksu.edu>


_. The World of War Series. New York and London: New York University Press,
1999. xi + 232 pp. Illustrations, maps, notes, index. $28.95 (cloth), ISBN
0-8147-5622-0.

Reviewed by Charles C. Kolb <ckolb at neh.gov>, National Endowment for the
Humanities

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are those of the reviewer and
not of his employer or any other federal agency.]

>From Six Nations to Conquered Provinces: The American Revolution and the
Iroquois

This book focuses upon the American military campaigns against the Loyalist
Iroquois and their Tory allies during the years 1777 through 1779. The
title for my review paraphrases General George Washington who considered
the lands of the Six Nations to be "conquered provinces" (7 September
1783). The title for the book derives from a letter from one of General
Sullivan's young Continental army lieutenants who wrote that "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
ostensibly to destroy but may it not transpire that we pillagers are
carelessly sowing the seeds of Empire?" (p. 186).

Mintz, professor emeritus of history at Southern Connecticut State
University, is the author of two other books on the American Revolution. He
writes that the revolution was "not only a struggle for independence, but
also for the lands of the Indians, and the jewel was the upstate New York
domain of the Iroquois' Six Nations. The fertile Mohawk, Susquehanna, and
Allegheny broad river valleys were a magnet for farmers weary of contending
with New England's stubborn soil. The route westward along the southern
shore of Lake Erie offered a pass through the Appalachian mountain chain
and beyond to the Mississippi" (p. 1).

Structurally, _Seeds of Empire_ includes acknowledgments, a prologue,
thirteen chapters, an epilogue, and list of abbreviations, notes, and an
index. 23 black-and-white illustrations and six maps supplement the
narrative. The illustrations are, in the main, reproductions of portraits
of some of the important personages who figure prominently in the
narrative. There are no separate bibliographies or references cited, but a
total of 320 endnotes (6 to 34 per chapter) are included, and depend upon a
list of 36 abbreviations, mostly acronyms. A nine-page double column index
is confined to proper nouns and does not incorporate topics.

I shall review Mintz's presentation, then proceed to a critique and
comparison of _Seeds of Empire_ with Barbara Graymont's classic work, _The
Iroquois in the American Revolution_ (1972) [1], the best account of the
Iroquois side of the campaigns, and military historian Joseph R. Fischer's
_A Well-Executed Failure: The Sullivan Campaign against the Iroquois,
July-September 1779_ (1997) [2], which provides an analysis of the
Continental army's first expedition against Indians. _Seeds of Empire_ is a
synthesis of the military actions between the Loyalists and Indian allies
on one side and the rebel American colonials and their Indian allies on the
other. It is a comprehensive retelling of the story of the struggle in New
York and Pennsylvania between the American colonists and the American
Indians, both native and recent migrants to that region. Likewise, it
documents the initial attempt in 1779 by the Continental army in its first
Indian campaign and assesses its successes and failures. The conflict was
not simply between the British and the Colonists. Indeed, Euro-Americans,
black Loyalist and colonist freemen and slaves, and American Indians were
included among the diverse groups drawn into the war. The Indians included
even more heterogeneous peoples, in the main among these the
Iroquois-speaking tribes of the northeastern United States. The Iroquois
homeland in upstate New York controlled important trade routes from the
Great Lakes through the Finger Lakes Region and Mohawk Valley to Albany.

Mintz begins ca. 1773, documenting the schism that developed among the six
Iroquois nations, with the Oneida and Tuscarora espousing the rebel
"American" cause, while Loyalist Iroquois, led by the Mohawk Joseph Brant,
and the other three tribes allied with the British. Brant (1742-1807)
learned English, was an Anglican missionary, and fought for the British
during the French and Indian War. He was presented to the court of King
George III in 1775 and received a commission as a captain in 1776, serving
as a British officer until 1783. The infamous ambush and decimation of
General Nicholas Herkimer's troops by St Leger's forces and Brandt's
Iroquois at the Battle of Oriskany on 6 August 1777 is recounted. In spite
of the defeat of the Americans and their retreat at Oriskany, the Loyalists
were unable to capture Fort Stanwix and they retreated. With this important
action, the war took a new turn, for as Mintz notes, "the Indians would no
longer serve as auxiliaries in a British force of professional soldiers
fighting an American force of professional soldiers. They were to direct
their main offensive against civilian centers, destroy private residences,
and take the lives of noncombatants of both sexes and all ages" (p. 45).
Mintz next documents the backcountry raids by the Iroquois in late 1777 and
early 1778 in upstate New York and northern Pennsylvania. Notable among the
Indian attacks was the Wyoming Valley Massacre of 3 July 1778. That rampage
led the American Congress, the Board of War, and General Washington to
formulate a major retaliatory offensive and defensive plan of action. The
planning and execution of the Sullivan, Clinton, and Brodhead Campaign of
1779 occupies the subsequent eight chapters of Mintz's book (pp. 75-172).
Graymont [1] covers briefly the same period (pp. 192-241), while Fischer
[2] provides 265 pages on the same topic from a professional military
perspective.

New Hampshire lawyer Major-General John Sullivan had military experience at
Boston, Quebec, and Trenton from 1774-1776, and was selected as commander
of the punitive expedition, although known for his "contentiousness" (p.
100). Brigadier General James Clinton's forces joined with Sullivan near
Tioga. At the Battle of Newtown on 29 August 1779, 700 Indians and Loyalist
rangers under John Butler and Brant faced a combined force of nearly 5,000
under Clinton and Brigadier General Enoch Poor. Although the Americans
failed to close a planned pincer-like trap and Butler and Brant escaped
with some of their men, the battle was an overwhelming victory for
Sullivan's army. Iroquois houses and cornfields were burned and the army
continued up the Chemung River into the Iroquois heartland. Displaced
Iroquois warriors and civilians, and their allies streamed toward Niagara,
compounding housing and supply problems at that base. Villages and
croplands on the Seneca River, others at the north ends of Seneca and
Cayuga lakes, and Chenussio ("grand capital of the Indian country") were
destroyed. On the return trip, Sullivan targeted the Cayuga villages,
croplands, and orchards on the east and west sides of Lake Cayuga, before
the army returned to Tioga and then to Easton. Mintz summarizes that "a
draconian tide of desolation" swept through Iroquoia.

The third component of Washington's Sullivan-Clinton-Brodhead strategy
involved a successful diversion. Colonel Daniel Brodhead, Commander of the
Western Department and Fourth Pennsylvania Continental Regiment at Fort
Pitt led 605 men up the Allegheny River Valley on 11 August. There were
minor skirmishes with Seneca and Muncy Delaware, and the force proceeded
unopposed to Bucktooth (Salamanca, New York). The force returned to Fort
Pitt on 14 September, having destroyed more than 500 acres of crops and 130
houses in three Seneca villages in the Kinzua area (Warren, Pennsylvania).
None of Brodhead's men were killed or taken prisoner. Graymont (pp.
214-215) and Starkey (pp. 123-127) write briefly on this expedition.

Sullivan leveled 32 Indian villages and destroyed 160,000 bushels of corn,
but his overly cautious nature, demands for overwhelming numbers of troops
and extraordinary amounts of supplies, lack of field reports, and his
braggadocio did not sit well with Washington, who sent Sullivan a one
sentence congratulatory letter. Mintz contends that "if Sullivan's
assignment was to eradicate the villages and sustenance of the Iroquois, he
had succeeded. But if his mission was to eliminate the Iroquois threat to
the European occupation of the Six Nations heartland, he had achieved only
a momentary respite" (p. 154). Surprised by the government's "cool"
reception, Sullivan retired from military service on 9 November 1779.
Washington thought that Sullivan had allowed the enemy to escape at Newtown
and failed to attack Fort Niagara. In the autumn of 1779, Niagara had only
a garrison of 400 and was overwhelmed by 5,000 refugees from Iroquoia by
January 1780. The winter of 1779-1780 proved to be one of the harshest on
record, but from February to September 1780 Butler sent out 59 war parties
to attack American settlements in the Mohawk, Delaware, Susquehanna, and
Juniata River valleys. New York's Governor Clinton estimated 200 dwellings
were burned and 150,000 bushels of grain were destroyed (p. 168), but other
Tory attacks were ineffective. With the surrender of British General
Cornwalis at Yorktown in November 1781, the reconquest of the Iroquois
homeland was not possible, and the Indians were caught between British
retrenchment and American annihilation. These Iroquois felt betrayed by the
British and were a subdued people dependent upon Canada. A reaffirmation of
the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix occurred in October 1784. In the book's
"Epilogue," Mintz writes "the Iroquois found themselves powerless to resist
the post-Revolutionary takeover and peopling of their heartland by the new
American nation" (p. 183). He then catalogues the attempts by New York
State to systematically dispossess the Loyalist Indians of their lands by
threat, deception, and guile. The Six Nations Reserve near Brantford,
Ontario and Seneca land retention and sales are touched upon as Mintz
brings the reader quickly up to February 1999 in a few paragraphs.

Mintz uses the standard British and Canadian primary sources and a
selection of original documents (letters, papers, diaries, journals, order
books, and minute books). He "mines" these sources for useful information
and presents his detailed, exceedingly well-referenced narrative. There are
fascinating connections revealed -- men who were brothers-in-laws; Loyalist
Indians who were, like some rebel opponents, Freemasons - and he comments
on the backgrounds of staff and rank-and-file officers, some of whom were
lawyers or physicians while others were unschooled, skilled frontiersmen.
Black Loyalist and rebel soldiers, slaves, free blacks among the Iroquois,
and a black physician also served during the struggle. The military
strategies, tactics, and logistics are also documented briefly and the
personnel strengths of military units and atrocities on both sides are
recounted. Curiously, there is a redundant story about American compassion
for an old Cayuga woman with slight variations (pp. 128-129, 134-135). In
some instances the reader must be careful to discern correctly the person
about whom Mintz refers because there are multiple Butlers (John, Richard,
Walter, William, and Zebulon), Clintons (George, Sir Henry, and James), and
Johnsons (Francis, Guy, Sir John, Sir William, and William). Some fought on
opposite sides and even against one another in the same battle, so that the
reader must pay careful attention. Mintz often includes present-day
community names and highway routes where Indian trails or expedition roads
once existed, helping to orient the reader to the current cultural
geography. He writes (p. 4) that more soldiers' diaries survive for this
campaign than for any other in the American Revolution, and he made
extensive use of these primary documents.

Graymont's _Iroquois in the American Revolution_ (published in 1972 and
still in print), is the most comprehensive assessment of the topic of
Indians and the War for Independence.[1] She begins ca. 1710 by providing
information on the six tribes and the context for the conflict, and
contains a more detailed background on Iroquois attempt to maintain
neutrality. Likewise, there is important material on the immediate results
and long-term effects of the American Revolution on the native populations.
Graymont discusses the Sullivan-Clinton-Brodhead expeditions in some detail
(pp. 192-241) in her more broadly conceived volume, while Starkey [3]
provides only an overview (pp.118-125). Fischer's _A Well-Executed Failure_
(1997) is a brilliant military analysis of the Continental Army's first
expedition against Indians.[2] He focuses upon army field operations;
therefore, his book is different from Mintz's volume. Fischer writes (p.
190) that "in a broad sense Sullivan's expedition turned up problems in the
relationship among the government, its people, and the military that would
plague the nation for decades." Government assumptions about the virtue and
altruism of its citizens had been proven false, while the citizens expected
more help than they received from the Continental Army. However, the
neonate federal government lacked the ability of coercion in the face of
strong political systems in New York and Pennsylvania. Fischer contends
that the "well-executed failure" was the responsibility of Washington
rather than Sullivan. While the former hoped that Niagara would be taken,
he did not provide the means for Sullivan to accomplish this goal.
Sullivan's scorched-earth offensive in Iroquoia served as a catalyst to
rally the Iroquois to the British cause, particularly because the British
were able to maintain their Indian allies during the harsh winter. An
advantage of Fischer's book is that there are plans of military formations
and a separate selected bibliography with individual sections on manuscript
sources, printed primary sources, and secondary sources.

Fischer's evaluation of Washington's offensive and defensive strategy
concludes that the Continental Army grew in sophistication with respect to
operational planning. The firm decision was made that the initial priority
was to destroy the Seneca because they were the most populous of the
Iroquois and provided almost half of the native warriors. Washington's
intelligence-gathering network formed the foundation for the operational
scheme, while the British suffered intelligence failures and failed to
recognize the veracity of the Iroquois about American strength (p. 42, 60).
Tactically, Sullivan's force was a "typical European-style army in its
configuration for battle in the wilderness" (p. 61 [2]). Fischer contends
that "the Iroquois focused their attention on fighting in 1778, and their
farming had suffered as a result" (p. 84). I find this an invalid
assumption for several reasons. Traditionally, Iroquois women were
responsible for the horticulture while men hunted and conducted warfare.
During 1778, the Americans did not molest Indian villages or crops, but the
rich harvest of 1779 destroyed by the American expeditions indicates that
much land was under cultivation and substantial quantities of corn were
harvested. Logistically, seven of ten British supply ships arrived in
Quebec in August 1779, so that sufficient supplies were available in
Montreal, Niagara, and Detroit. Sullivan and Clinton's forces were obliged
to forage for food in Seneca and Cayuga country because of spoiled and
inadequate food and transportation problems, but Clinton had less of a
problem because supplies had been stockpiled at Lake Otsego during the
previous year in preparation for the attack on Canada that had been called
off (p. 186 [2]). Washington, Fischer contends, never understood the scope
of the food supply problem and the failure to inform the Commissary
Department of Sullivan's needs; "from the standpoint of logistics, it
failed at the strategic level" wrote Fischer (pp. 115-119, 125 [2]).
Therefore, he concludes that Sullivan was not to blame and stresses that
the failure to take Niagara was the fault of the ultimate commander, George
Washington.

Your reviewer was particularly struck by parallels to British and American
political and military strategies elsewhere in the world. For example, "The
Great Game," the politico-economic power struggle between Russia and
Britain for control of Afghanistan. In this conflict Britain sought to
prevent a Russian presence in the Gulf of Arabia, the Indian Ocean, and the
Indian Subcontinent by enlisting local allies. The Iroquois found that
their faith in the British was misplaced and that they, too, were pawns to
be manipulated for the benefit of the Crown (Fischer, p. 88). The British
"Great Game" strategy of divide and conquer was applied in the Colonial
wars in North America, India, and South and East Africa.

_Seeds of Empire_ is an engaging synthesis and assessment of a component of
one of the most significant episodes in American cultural and military
history. It is compelling history and comprehensive in outlook, considering
the struggle in New York and Pennsylvania between American colonists and
American Indians native to that region - the Iroquois. This is excellent
scholarship, superior in some ways to other accounts in that it details the
conflict of the Tories and their Indian allies against the American
settlers, the Continental Army, and their native allies. No other volume
treats all of the major battles and expeditions for the decade 1773-1783.
Fischer's meticulous evaluation of the Sullivan-Clinton campaign is
essential reading in order to understand the strategy, tactics, logistics,
leadership, and civilian-military interactions. Therefore, Mintz's book may
be read alone or in conjunction with other syntheses and is useful for
scholars and students of the Colonial era, the American Revolution, and
military history.

REFERENCES CITED

[1]. Barbara Graymont. _The Iroquois in the American Revolution_. Syracuse,
NY: Syracuse University Press, 1972.

[2]. Joseph R. Fischer. _A Well-Executed Failure: The Sullivan Campaign
against the Iroquois, July-September 1779_. Columbia: University of South
Carolina Press, 1997.

[3]. Armstrong Starkey. _European and Native American Warfare, 1675-1815_.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999.

Copyright (c) 1999 by H-Net, all rights reserved. This work may be copied
for non-profit educational use if proper credit is given to the author and
the list. For other permission, please contact H-Net at h-net.msu.edu.

Charles W. Sanders, Jr. Book Review Editor, H-War Kansas State University
<hwarbook at ksu.edu>




Louis Proyect

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