Schoharie Valley, New York

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Schoharie Valley, New York

SCHOHARIE VALLEY, NEW YORK. 15-19 October 1780. Sir John Johnson led a force of between eight hundred and fifteen hundred Loyalists, British regulars, and Indians into the Schoharie Valley from the southwest on 15 October. That night he bypassed the Upper Fort and, burning farms as he went, approached the Middle Fort early on 16 October. Major Melancthon Woolsey, commanding Middle Fort, sent out a 40-man reconnaissance force which withdrew before Johnson's forces. The garrison of 150 "three-months men" and 50 militia found themselves besieged by a vastly superior enemy possessing artillery in the shape of a grasshopper (a three-pound brass cannon).

Major Woolsey was ready to discuss surrender. But when a flag of truce started forward, Timothy Murphy fired on it. Woolsey and his officers were outraged at this breach of etiquette and discipline but failed to prevent Murphy from repeating the performance twice more. When Woolsey ordered a white flag raised, Murphy threatened to kill the man who moved to comply. While the militia in the fort argued among themselves, Johnson's raiders pillaged and burned everything in the area. They finally abandoned the siege and continued down the Schoharie, burning nearly every building in the valley before crossing the Mohawk. Schoharie Valley had been an important source of provisions for the Continental army; Washington wrote that it had furnished eighty thousand bushels of grain for public use. A strong west wind fanned the fires started by the raiders, and by the time Johnson's column cleared the Lower Fort, at 4 p.m. on the 17th, the prosperous valley was in flames. Informed that "the enemy have burnt the whole of Schohary," General Robert Van Rensselaer gathered a force to meet Johnson, but Van Rensselaer arrived well after the British and Loyalists had left the area. Loyalist houses left by the invaders were destroyed by the Patriots.

SEE ALSO Border Warfare in New York; Johnson, Sir John; Klock's Field, New York; Murphy, Timothy.


Thomas, Earle. Sir John Johnson: Loyalist Baronet. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1986.

                           revised by Michael Bellesiles

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Schoharie Valley, New York

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Schoharie Valley, New York