Johnson, Guy

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Johnson, Guy

JOHNSON, GUY. (c. 1740–1788). Loyalist leader, Indian superintendent. Born in County Meath, Ireland, Johnson immigrated to Boston in 1756 and immediately found his way to the Mohawk Valley, where Sir William Johnson, whom Guy claimed to be his uncle, served as superintendent of Indian affairs. The elder Johnson found work for Guy as his secretary. In the campaign of 1759–1760, he commanded a ranger company under Amherst. In 1762 he became Sir William's deputy for Indian affairs, gaining in that post the confidence of his superior as well as that of the Indians. In 1763 he married Sir William's daughter, Mary, and established a residence, named Guy Hall, near Amsterdam. During the period from 1773 to 1775, he was in the New York assembly and served as militia colonel and adjutant general. In 1774 he succeeded Sir William as superintendent of Indian affairs on the order of General Thomas Gage.

Guy worked to win the Indians to the British side in the conflict that appeared imminent, and in the Council of Oswego during July 1775, he signed up all but two of the Iroquois nations. Forced out of the Mohawk Valley by hostile Patriots, Johnson went to Montreal, accompanied by some Indians and 220 other Loyalists, and offered his services to Governor Guy Carleton. He helped for a time in the defense of St. Johns, but when John Campbell arrived as the new superintendent of Indian affairs, Johnson left for England in November 1775 to press his claim to the position. Accompanied by Joseph Brant, Johnson was unable to regain his office but accepted the position of superintendent of the Iroquois Confederacy. He reached New York City in the summer of 1776, expecting Burgoyne's campaign the following year to open the way up the Hudson and to Montreal. With the failure of Burgoyne's campaign, Johnson decided to stay on in New York City, leaving relations with the Iroquois in the hands of his brother-in-law, Daniel Claus, in Montreal and John Butler at Niagara throughout the critical intervening years of the war. He did, however, manage the John Street Theater, performing in some of its plays. Given that his alleged purpose was to coordinate operations of the main British army with those of the Indians and Loyalists in Canada and the frontier, his long stay in New York City amounted to dereliction of duty.

In the fall of 1779 Johnson moved his headquarters to Niagara, directing a series of raids against the frontier that destroyed large quantities of foodstuffs intended for the Continental forces and driving thousands of settlers east. He also provided for all the Iroquois driven from their homes by the Patriot raids of 1779, earning a reprimand from Governor Frederick Haldimand for spending British funds in a profligate fashion.

In 1783 Johnson resigned his office, being succeeded as Indian superintendent by Sir John Johnson. Guy Johnson returned to England to press his claim for recompense for property confiscated by the state of New York. He died in London on 5 March 1788.

SEE ALSO Brant, Joseph; Iroquois League.


Graymont, Barbara. The Iroquois in the American Revolution. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1972.

                        revised by Michael Bellesiles

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