Brant, Joseph

views updated May 14 2018

Joseph Brant

Born c. March 1742
Upper Ohio River (near present-day Akron, Ohio)
Died November 24, 1807
Grand River, Ontario, Canada

Mohawk war chief, politician, missionary

Joseph Brant was a Mohawk leader who led his people into battle on the side of the British during the Revolutionary War (1775–83). Brant was a skilled politician with the manners of a British gentleman, and he learned to live in both the white and Indian worlds. Brant's loyalty to Great Britain was surpassed only by his loyalty to his people, and he spent his lifetime trying to ensure their land rights and the continuation of their culture.

Joseph Brant was born about 1742 in the forest along the Ohio River near present-day Akron, Ohio, while his parents were on a hunting trip. His father was a Mohawk chief, and his mother may have been part European and part Indian. Brant's name at birth was Thayendanegea (pronounced thayen-duh-NAY-ghee-uh), meaning "he places two bets."

The Mohawk was one of six tribes that lived peacefully among themselves and belonged to the Iroquois (pronounced IR-uh-kwoy) Confederacy (union). The six tribes were the Mohawk, Oneida (pronounced oh-NEYE-duh), Onondaga, Cayuga (pronounced KEYE-you-guh), Seneca, and Tuscarora. Members of the confederacy were sometimes called "Iroquois" instead of by their tribal name.

After his father's death, Brant's mother married a man named Nicklaus Brant, who was a Mohawk chief and was also part Dutch. Joseph Brant adopted his stepfather's last name and learned both Indian customs and the ways of the whites. He became an accomplished hunter, fisherman, swimmer, trapper, and canoeist.

Brant's older sister, Mary "Molly" Brant see entry, was the wife of Sir William Johnson, the white superintendent of Indian affairs for Great Britain. His job was to make sure American colonists did not trespass on land set aside for the Indians west of the Appalachian Mountains. Johnson was popular with the tribes he dealt with, and Molly Brant was a powerful figure in the Native community.

As a boy Joseph Brant went to live with his sister and brother-in-law at Fort Johnson in upper New York State. There in 1755 young Brant witnessed a battle at Lake George between French soldiers and British soldiers and their Mohawk allies. The battle was part of a larger conflict called the French and Indian War (1754–63), which was fought between England and France over who would control North America. By 1759 Joseph Brant was old enough to fight for the British beside Sir William Johnson in the military campaign at Fort Niagara, New York. The French lost the war in 1763.

About 1760 Brant began attending the white-run Indian Charity School in Lebanon, Connecticut, which later relocated and became Dartmouth College. Brant stayed there for several years, studying Christianity and learning to read and write English.

Battles Pontiac's forces

In 1763 Joseph Brant was called back to Fort Johnson by his sister when trouble broke out in the Ohio Valley. In an incident called Pontiac's Rebellion, Indian troops under Chief Pontiac swept across the western frontier to capture British forts. Pontiac's men were desperately trying to keep American colonists from moving onto their land in great numbers and taking it over.

Brant led Mohawk and Oneida volunteers against the forces of Pontiac. The rebellion was finally put down by a dirty trick on the part of British soldiers, who arranged to have smallpox-infected blankets delivered to the Indians. As a result, the awful disease quickly spread, and thousands of Indians were killed, bringing the uprising to an end.

Loses two wives, becomes noted translator

People who knew Brant as a young man described him as tall and muscular, with fairer skin than many other Indians, expressive facial features, and a confident manner. Around 1765 Brant married his first wife, Christine, the daughter of an Oneida tribal chief. They settled in Canajoharie in the Mohawk Valley, on a farm Joseph had inherited. The couple had two children, Isaac and Christina.

After Christine died during the eighth year of their marriage, Brant married her sister, Susannah, who remained childless and died a few years later. Both sisters were victims of tuberculosis, an easily spread lung disease.

While living in Canajoharie, Brant showed his devotion to Christianity by translating a book of the Bible into his native Mohawk language. He also served as secretary to his brother-in-law, Indian agent Sir William Johnson, a position that was considered a great honor. He earned a reputation among the British as an outstanding translator of Mohawk. Brant attended meetings of the Iroquois Grand Council at Onondaga, New York, and provided firsthand information to the British authorities about what the Indians were thinking and doing.

Impresses British, rallies Iroquois

In 1774, after his brother-in-law's death, Brant became secretary to Johnson's nephew, Guy Johnson, who replaced his uncle as Great Britain's Indian superintendent. In November 1775 the two men sailed for England, where Brant impressed members of British society with his excellent command of English, his European-style education, and his translation of the Christian Bible into his native language. Though he often wore knee-high moccasins and a blanket draped over one shoulder, Brant was also comfortable wearing British-style clothing. When in later years Brant took another trip to England, the famous painters George Romney and Benjamin West each painted pictures of Brant in his native costume.

While in England, Brant was given the honor of becoming a British officer. When he returned to America, the colonists were beginning to fight for their independence from England in the Revolutionary War. Captain Brant, as he was now called, led pro-British Indian troops in raids, hoping to stop the American military from importing food and supplies from Europe. He was regarded by the British as a fine soldier and representative of his people.

Beginning in 1776, as the Revolutionary War raged, Brant went from one Indian village to another, trying to rally Iroquois people to the cause of the British. He was afraid that if the American colonists won the war, settlers would take over Indian land. He believed a British promise that land already taken from the Indians would be returned to them if they fought on the side of the British and won.

Gains limited support, fights in bloody battles

Brant hoped that when the Revolutionary War ended, the British would declare an Indian state, possibly headed by himself, west of the Allegheny Mountains. During the early summer of 1777, Brant was part of a council at which he and his sister, Molly Brant, convinced the Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, and Onondaga tribes to support the British, with Joseph serving as their war chief. The Oneida and Tuscarora tribes refused to join with the others, and the Iroquois union began to crumble. Also present at the council was a Seneca chief named Red Jacket, who urged the tribes to remain neutral (non-involved) and was then called a coward by Brant.

Brant and the warriors who chose to join him tried to force the American colonists out of the Mohawk Valley by raiding and burning white settlements and driving away their live-stock. Pro-British soldiers were also fighting in the area, and they may well have committed some of the violence there. But the Indians were widely blamed for causing all the trouble. To pay them back, Americans launched bloody raids on the Iroquois villages, terrorizing the inhabitants. Brant's warriors went on to fight at the battles of Oriskany (pronounced uh-RIS-kuh-nee), Minisink, and Cherry Valley in New York.

Cherry Valley Massacre makes his reputation

In 1778 Brant's forces joined British soldiers and set out to destroy the town and the fort of Cherry Valley. They launched a surprise attack on more than 250 American soldiers stationed there, killing about 30 men, women, and children, burning houses, and taking more than 70 prisoners. They withdrew the next day upon the arrival of 200 patriot soldiers. This event, called the "Cherry Valley Massacre," established Brant's reputation as a fierce fighter; some whites called him "Monster" Brant.

War ends; efforts to unite tribes fails

By 1781 American general George Washington see entry and his troops had defeated the British and their Iro quois allies and taken over the Mohawk Valley. At the end of the Revolutionary War, Americans got most of the land in the Mohawk Valley for themselves. With the peace treaty of 1783,

the border between the United States and Canada was drawn straight through Iroquois lands, and the Indians were never consulted about the matter. Beginning that year, and for more than ten years afterward, Brant tried to bring together the Iroquois and other western Indians to stop American expansion into Indian lands. His efforts were unsuccessful.

Relocates to Canada

In 1779 Brant married for the third and final time, to Catherine Croghan, who was the daughter of a Mohawk woman and George Croghan, an Irish-born Indian agent for the British. Brant and his new wife had seven children.

The British government (which still controlled Canada) gave land in Canada to whites, Mohawks, and other Indians who had been loyal to Great Britain during the war. In 1784 Brant and some of his Mohawks moved to a tract of land along Ontario's Grand River, which became known as the Six Nations Reserve (reservation). The Indians settled in small villages along the river. Brant was provided half his military pay by the British and was given some choice land, where he built a fine English-style home.

Brant believed that Indians would have to learn the white men's methods of farming in order to survive there, and he wanted to lease and sell farmland to whites as a source of income. But a legal disagreement over the control of Indian land emerged, and some of the Indians on the Grand River settlement were unhappy over the way Brant proposed to distribute the money. As a result, the plan was never carried out.

Later life

Joseph Brant revisited England in 1786, where he received funds to build the first Episcopal church in Upper Canada (the Old Mohawk Church). He spent his later years back in Canada translating the Bible into Mohawk and performing missionary activities. He made constant efforts to secure peace between the United States and the Indian tribes that lived on the frontier.

Although the welfare of his people was Brant's primary concern, his loyalty to the British caused some Indians to become suspicious of him. His power among his own people lessened. As a result, the British felt free to ignore many of the promises they had made to him regarding land and self-rule by the Indians.

Joseph Brant died on November 24, 1807, at the age of sixty-five. He was buried near the church he helped construct at Brantford, Ontario.

Was Joseph Brant a cold-blooded savage (as many Americans saw him) or a man of courage and vision? There are no easy answers. In his vivid account of the American frontier, A Company of Heroes, Dale Van Every, like many modern historians, points out Brant's contradictory character traits:

As a young man [Brant] was the consort [associate] of missionaries and a translator of scriptures [holy writings]. As a mature man he was expelled from this cloistered [protected] atmosphere into a world of tumult [uproar] and crisis in which he was laden with public responsibilities he was to bear to the end of his life. His emotional nature developed a capacity for the deepest friendships and an idyllic [pleasing and simple] marriage.… Such was the respect in which he was held even by hisenemies that he could be received by [George] Washington with all the ceremony due a visiting head of state. Yet this man who had acquired so many civilized and cultured instincts was for years the aggressive and dedicated commander of bands of Indian marauders [raiders] whose [activities] were more atrocious than any other in the long and fearful record of frontier warfare.

For More Information

Allen, Robert S. "Brant, Joseph." The Canadian Encyclopedia. James Marsh, editor-in-chief. Edmonton, Alberta: Hurtiga Publishers, 1985, pp. 214–15.

Avery, Susan, and Linda Skinner. Extraordinary American Indians. Chicago: Children's Press, 1992, pp. 18–22.

Birchfield, D. L., gen. ed. "Red Jacket." Encyclopedia of North American Indians, Vol. 3. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1997, pp. 1119–20.

Bolton, Jonathan. Joseph Brant. New York: Chelsea House, 1992.

Johansen, B. E. "Brant, Joseph." The Encyclopedia of North American Indians, Vol. 2, edited by D. L. Birchfield. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1997, pp. 195–96.

Malinowski, Sharon, ed. "Red Jacket." Notable Native Americans. Detroit: Gale, 1995, pp. 355–57.

Straub, Deborah Gillian, ed. "Joseph Brant." Voices of Multicultural America: Notable Speeches Delivered by African, Asian, Hispanic, and Native Americans 1790–1995. Detroit: Gale, 1996, pp. 71–73.

Van Every, Dale. A Company of Heroes: The American Frontier 1775–1783. New York: William Morrow, 1962, pp. 26–27.

Zell, Fran. A Multicultural Portrait of the American Revolution. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 1996, p. 56.

Web Sites

Penick, Tom. "The Story of Joseph Brant." Indigenous Peoples' Literature. [Online] Available (accessed on 5/19/99).

Family Troubles Cause Heartache

Joseph Brant's eldest son, Isaac Brant, was central to one of the saddest incidents in the life of the Indian leader. From his earliest childhood, Isaac had been a bad-tempered boy who caused many problems for his father. Once Brant paid a large sum of money to a white man after Isaac assaulted the man and killed his horse. Later, in a drunken rage, Isaac broke into the inn where his father, Joseph, was staying and attacked him with a knife. In wrestling the knife away from his son, Brant inflicted a small wound on Isaac's head. The drunken Isaac refused treatment for the wound, which became infected, leading to his death. Although an Indian council found Joseph Brant in no way guilty for his son's death, he had many regrets for his inability to help Isaac live a good life.

Red Jacket

The Seneca chief Red Jacket (c. 1756–1830), who was born in upper New York State, was another important Indian leader during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Named Obetiani at birth, meaning "He Is Prepared," he later took the name Sagoyewatha, meaning "He Causes Them to Be Awake." He received the English name Red Jacket for the red coat presented to him by the British, which he often wore.

Red Jacket served as a representative of the Seneca tribe at meetings of the Iroquois Confederacy and also was a spokesman for the Indians before white groups. He was known more as a speaker than as a warrior, and he urged his tribe to remain neutral during the American Revolution. Unlike Indian leader Joseph Brant, who moved to Canada after the Revolutionary War, Red Jacket stayed in the United States.

Red Jacket supported the United States in the War of 1812 (1812–15), another conflict between the United States and Great Britain. Although he encouraged friendship between Indians and the United States government, he also believed that Indians should keep their own lands and retain their native culture. He represented Indians in court battles regarding land disputes and against Christian missionaries who tried to convert them. Still, some historians accuse him of signing away native lands to stay on good terms with whites.

In an article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica of 1889, editors E. C. Stedman and E. M. Hutchinson described an 1805 encounter between Red Jacket and Christian missionary Reverend Cram of the Boston Missionary Society, who wanted to convert the Indians to Christianity. After hearing Cram preach, Red Jacket made a reply that displayed his opinions, his logic, and his speaking skills:

You say that you are sent to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to His mind, and if we do not take hold [of] the religion which you white people teach, we shall be unhappy hereafter … How do we know this to be true? If it was intended for us as well as you, why has not the Great Spirit given [it] to us? … We only know what you tell us about it. How shall we know when to believe, being so often deceived by the white people?…

You say you have not come to get our land or our wealth but to enlighten our minds … you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbors. We are acquainted with them. We will wait a little while and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good, makes them honest and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again of what you have said.

As an old man, Red Jacket suffered from the ill effects of drinking too much alcohol. He lost his position as Iroquois chief in 1827, but the position was restored shortly before his death on January 30, 1830. In a move that certainly would have been against his wishes, missionaries took charge of his body and gave him a Christian burial.

Brant, Joseph

views updated Jun 27 2018

Brant, Joseph

BRANT, JOSEPH. (1743–1807). Mohawk leader. Brant was born as Thayendanegea at Cuyhoga to undistinguished Mohawk parents early in 1743. His father died when he was young, and his widowed mother took him back to her native Canajoharie in the Mohawk Valley, where he was baptized into the Church of England. After Catawbas killed her second husband, his mother married the hereditary chief, Brant Canagaraduncka (whose own father had visited London in 1710), from whom Joseph took his surname. His elder sister Molly became Sir William Johnson's mistress and Joseph consequently became Johnson's protégé.

During the Seven Years' War, young Brant fought against the French and their native allies, beginning at the tender age of thirteen at Lake George. In 1761, with the American war virtually over, Johnson sent Joseph and two other Mohawks to Moor's Indian Charity School in Lebanon, Connecticut, where he learned to speak, read, and write fluent English and studied Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and agriculture. He was supposed to complete his education and become a missionary but, for reasons that are still obscure, he returned to Canajoharie after only two years. In 1765 he married Neggen Aoghyatonghsera (Margaret) from a prominent Oneida family, a connection that significantly enhanced Joseph's own status.


Despite his exposure at Lebanon to Wheelock's nonconformist influences, Brant clung to a devout Anglicanism blended with traditional Iroquois beliefs. He appears to have been a missionary's interpreter in 1763, and later he helped to translate several religious works, including parts of the Book of Common Prayer, into Mohawk. In 1768 Joseph and Molly gave land for the building of the Indian Castle mission church at the Mohawk Upper Castle. In 1773, two years after Margaret's death, Brant followed Mohawk custom by marrying her half sister. This was too much for the local Anglican priest, so the ceremony was performed by a German minister. The incident seems to have had no effect on Joseph's attachment to the Church of England, which appears to have been of political as well as religious importance. As the revolutionary crisis deepened and the New England Calvinist missionary, Samuel Kirkland, seduced the Oneidas and Tuscaroras to the American cause by offering an alternative belief system, so Anglicanism became all the more inseparable from the Mohawk alliance with the British.


Like some other Native leaders, Brant judged that unswerving loyalty to the crown might bring the Mohawks protection against unscrupulous land jobbers and intrusive settlers. He therefore joined the Mohawks who fought on the British side in Pontiac's War and worked as a guide and translator for the northern Indian department. In 1774, when Guy Johnson succeeded Sir William Johnson as Indian superintendent, Brant became his secretary. Joseph was not, however, above using violence when appeals to officialdom failed, as when he led twenty warriors against the notorious speculator, George Klock.

As the revolutionary conflict developed, most of the land speculators came to support the American cause, thus deepening Brant's conviction that the Six Nations must cleave to the British. In 1775 he went north with a Loyalist and Mohawk force to oppose the American advance on Montreal and was the Mohawk spokesman at a conference with Guy Carleton. Here Brant's principal concerns were partly met by Carleton's assurances that the Mohawks' lands would be safe and that Britain would compensate them for any losses during the war. He was even given a captain's commission. But experience had made Brant cautious, and late in 1775 he traveled to London to get Carleton's promises confirmed and to ask for redress for earlier illegal encroachments. In London, like earlier Native visitors, he was received at court, feted and entertained by members of the educated public (including James Boswell), painted (by George Romney), and made a kind of popular public spectacle. More importantly, he was given the guarantees he sought in return for Mohawk loyalty during the rebellion. Thus armed, Brant sailed for home in June 1776, used his musket in an encounter with an American privateer, and landed on Staten Island. He joined in military operations in New Jersey before returning home through American lines.


Subsequently Brant, in conjunction with the Butlers at Fort Niagara, led many Loyalist-Indian raids upon the New York frontier. These operations had three objectives: to rescue the families of fled Iroquois and Loyalists; to defend the Iroquois country; and to prevent the rebel forces drawing supplies from the frontier farms of New York. No doubt Brant also saw the opportunity for personal distinction, but despite black propaganda to the contrary, he was not interested in slaughter and scalping for their own sake. He led the Indian contingent with St. Leger's expedition at the siege of Fort Stanwix and took part in John Butler's ambush of Herkimer's relief column at Oriskany on 6 August 1777. During the next year, while Butler was raiding the Wyoming Valley, Brant gathered a force of Indians and Loyalists at Unadilla on the Susquehanna. From there he hit Andrustown on 18 July and German Flats on 13 September. Finally, after rebel forces destroyed Unadilla (6-8 October), he joined forces with Walter Butler to inflict a serious reverse upon the rebels at Cherry Valley on 11 November 1778. These actions attracted the admiration of the distant Lord George Germain, who sent Brant the king's commission as colonel.

Brant's raids provoked Sullivan's invasion of the Iroquois country in 1779. While this expedition was being prepared, Brant raided Minisink, a settlement on the Delaware, on the night of 19-20 July, perhaps to secure supplies for Butler or to draw off some of Sullivan's men. Two days later he cut off and destroyed a pursuing rebel force before retiring to help Butler resist Sullivan. On 12 August he inflicted some casualties in a minor skirmish with the rebels. At Newtown (29 August 1779), where an ambush similar to that at Oriskany failed and the rebel artillery panicked the Indians, Brant held enough of his warriors together to offer a desperate resistance against odds of five to one. He launched a counterattack that almost destroyed a New Hampshire regiment before the Loyalists and Indians were forced to retreat. Sullivan's army then marched through the Iroquois country, burning towns and forcing most of the people to flee to Fort Niagara. Here they had to live in refugee camps, dependent upon British handouts.

But the Iroquois were not knocked out of the war: on the contrary, they struck back harder than ever. Brant himself raided Harpersfield and Minisink (2-4 April 1780) and destroyed the Canajoharie settlements (1-2 August). About 25 August he destroyed a one-hundred-strong rebel force on the Ohio before moving north again to join Sir John Johnson's raid on the Schoharie Valley. In early 1781 he repeatedly raided the upper Mohawk Valley until rebel resistance stiffened and British will to fight on withered away. By now the strain had caused a marked deterioration in Brant's character, and he had begun to take to drinking and brawling. The Treaty of Paris of 1783 seemed to him a cynical betrayal of the Iroquois. Nevertheless, he led a movement to resettle the Iroquois on the Grand River in British territory on the northern side of Lake Erie. By 1785 about one-third of the New York Iroquois were there and Brant had risen from being a predominantly Mohawk leader to being a leading figure in the Six Nations.


Brant now tried to construct a pan-Indian alliance while also attempting to obtain for the Iroquois full title to their Canadian lands and the compensation promised to the Mohawks in 1775 and 1776. He also hoped for promises of British military support for the nations of the northwest and Great Lakes against the United States. However, this support, without which Brant and other leaders felt unable to act, was not forthcoming when the Americans attacked the northwestern nations in the years from 1787 to 1794. Consequently, the idea of a pan-Indian alliance collapsed and with it the aim of reuniting the Six Nations. Within the Canadian Iroquois, his political opponents may have tried to have him assassinated by his son Isaac, who died after a brawl with his father in 1795. Joseph himself, much weakened by drink and malaria, died in his bed at Burlington on Lake Ontario on 24 November 1807.


Joseph Brant was an outstanding product of the "middle ground," a term Richard White originally applied to the Great Lakes region but which some writers have used even when its relevance is limited. However, there is no doubt of its validity in connection with the Mohawks, and with Brant in particular. He lived in a world where he could be simultaneously hunter, trader, civil servant, and assistant missionary and in which both sides borrowed from the other in order to establish a mutually acceptable meeting place. His extraordinary intelligence and energy thrived in such an environment. If Brant was only temporarily successful in sustaining this middle ground, it was because the odds were stacked against him from the beginning.

SEE ALSO Andrustown, New York; Butler Brothers of Pennsylvania; Canajoharie Settlements, New York; Cherry Valley Massacre, New York; Germain, George Sackville; German Flats, New York; Harpersfield, New York; Lochry's Defeat, Ohio River; Minisink, New York (19-22 July, 1779); Newtown, New York; Oriskany, New York; Schoharie Valley, New York; St. Leger's Expedition; Sullivan's Expedition against the Iroquois; Wyoming Valley Massacre, Pennsylvania.


Kelsay, L. T. Joseph Brant, 1743–1807: Man of Two Worlds. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1984.

Snow, Dean R. The Iroquois. Oxford: Blackwell, 1996.

                                  revised by John Oliphant

Joseph Brant

views updated Jun 11 2018

Joseph Brant

Joseph Brant (1742-1807) was a Mohawk chief and ally of the British during the American Revolution. He was instrumental in moving the Mohawks to Canada following the winning of American independence.

Joseph Brant was born in the Ohio Valley and was called Thayendanegea ("he who places two bets"). His father was a sachem of the Iroquois Confederacy, to which the Mohawks belonged; however, Brant's mother was not a Mohawk, and as descent in the tribe was matrilineal, he never rose to the rank of sachem, although he did become a war chief.

As a boy, Brant attracted the protection of Sir William Johnson, British Indian superintendent, whom he accompanied on an expedition in 1755. Six years later, at 19, Brant was sent to Moor's Charity School in Lebanon, Conn., for an education. There he was converted to the Anglican Church and in 1763 left the school to work as an interpreter for a missionary. Thereafter he was constantly caught between a desire to convert his tribe to white ways and to lead them in war against the whites.

In 1764 Brant left the missionary, whom he had helped to translate religious tracts into the Mohawk language, to join the Iroquois contingent fighting under Chief Pontiac. Ten years later, when Guy Johnson, son-in-law of Sir William Johnson, became Indian superintendent, Brant became his secretary. At the outbreak of the American Revolution, Brant used his influence to persuade the Iroquois to join the British side and to discredit the Reverend Samuel Kirkland, a missionary who had succeeded in persuading the Oneida and Tuscarora (tribes in the Iroquois Confederacy) to join with the Americans.

Brant was war chief of the Mohawks when he met Sir Guy Carleton at a conference in Montreal. Brant was commissioned a captain and sent to England to be presented at court as a Native American ally of the Crown. Returning to the New World, he fought as commander of a Native American contingent at the Battle of Long Island in 1776 and was with St. Leger's expedition at the Battle of Oriskany in 1777.

Between 1778 and 1780 Brant led his Indian troops on raids in the Mohawk Valley, southern New York, and northern Pennsylvania, warning his followers that an American victory would mean destruction for all Native Americans. He and his followers were accused of perpetrating massacres such as those at Cherry Valley in 1778 and at Wyoming in 1779; though Brant always claimed that he did not join in these bloody aspects of the fighting, his troops were responsible for some reprehensible killings.

At the close of the American Revolution, Brant frustrated the attempt of Red Jacket, a rival Mohawk chief, to negotiate a peace treaty with the United States. Later he unsuccessfully attempted such a negotiation himself, whereupon he persuaded Governor Haldimaud of Canada to assign the Mohawks a reservation on the Grand River in Upper Canada. His journey to England in 1785 was successful in attaining an indemnification for the Mohawks for their losses during the war. He also made a trip to Philadelphia during which he was unsuccessful in negotiating peace with the United States.

Brant's later years were spent translating the New Testament and other religious documents into Mohawk and promoting Native American acceptance of the white man's ways. He was able to prevent speculators from getting the Mohawk lands on the Grand River, but his last years were saddened by the actions of his dissolute eldest son and by his quarrels with his rival, Red Jacket. He died on Nov. 24, 1807, at the Grand River Reservation.

Further Reading

The best recent work on Brant is Harvey Chalmers, in collaboration with Ethel Brant Monture, Joseph Brant: Mohawk (1955). Another useful work is Louis Aubrey Wood, The War Chief of the Six Nations: A Chronicle of Joseph Brant (1914). See also Alexander C. Flick, ed., History of the State of New York, vol. 4: The New State (1933); Ethel Brant Monture, Canadian Portraits: Brant, Crowfoot, Oronhyatekha—Famous Indians (1960); and Dale Van Every, A Company of Heroes: The American Frontier, 1775-1783 (1962). □

Brant, Joseph (Thayendanegea) (1743?-1807)

views updated May 29 2018

Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea) (1743?-1807)

Mohawk tribal leader


Family Connections. Named Thayendanegea (He Places Together Two Bets) by his people, Joseph Brant was born into a prominent Mohawk family on the New York frontier. His father was Tehonwaghkwangeraghkwa, or Nickus Brant, while his grandfather was Sagayeeanquarashtow, one of the four native kings who visited London in the early eighteenth century. Molly, his older sister, was the influential consort of the wealthy landowner and merchant Sir William Johnson, superintendent of the Northern District for Indian Affairs. Brant married Margaret, the daughter of the Oneida leader Skenandon. When she died he wed her sister, Susana; when he was widowed a second time he married Catherine Croghan, the half-Mohawk daughter of Col. George Croghan, an interpreter in the Indian Department.

Accomplishments. Joseph Brant is remembered as a military leader, a diplomat, and a linguist. Missionaries taught him how to write Mohawk, and in 1761 he was recruited by the Mohegan teacher Samson Occom to attend Eleazar Wheelocks charity school in Lebanon, Connecticut. Brant attended the school for several terms and instructed white youths in the Mohawk language, emerging as a skilled interpreter. His formal education ended in 1763 when his sister Molly persuaded him to return home. Until 1775 he served Johnson as an aide and translator and informed him of American overtures for Iroquoian neutrality in the war between England and her colonies.

Ties with England. Brant visited London during the winter of 17751776. He apparently concluded from his visit that the British were the best protection for native peoples, who feared the rebellious Americans. During the Revolutionary War he helped keep the majority of Iroquois warriors in the royal camp, and he led several raids against the frontier settlements. Afterward Brant led some of the Mohawks into Canada along the Grand River, north of Lake Erie. While there he fused the roles of traditional Iroquois sachem and colonial lord of the manor. He and his family lived in a grand style, speaking English, wearing European clothes, and hosting elegant dinners served by well-dressed slaves. He encouraged missionary efforts and wrote Mohawk translations of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and the Gospel of Mark. During conflicts with the new American government in the 1790s he lost his influence among the western tribes and died on 24 November 1807.


Isabel Thompson Kelsay, Joseph Brant, 17431807: Man of Two Worlds (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1984);

James ODonnell, Joseph Brant, in American Indian Leaders: Studies in Diversity, edited by R. David Edmunds (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1980), pp. 2140.

Brant, Joseph

views updated May 23 2018

Brant, Joseph (1742–1807), British army officer and Mohawk leader.Brant was the son of a Mohawk chief and a woman of mixed English and Indian descent. After his father's death, Brant lived with his sister's husband, William Johnson, superintendent of Indian affairs north of the Ohio River from 1755 to 1774. This experience, combined with attendance at a Christian school in Connecticut, prepared him for work as a bicultural mediator between the English and Iroquois in the years leading up to the American Revolution.

When the Revolutionary War broke out, Brant traveled to England, and was commissioned captain, and expressed his allegiance to the British crown. He returned to the Hudson River Valley and rallied the Iroquois to the loyalist cause, leading highly effective expeditions against Americans living in the region. These brought harsh retaliation from American forces under Gen. John Sullivan in 1779. Brant continued to resist even after British troops ceased hostilities. The English rewarded him and a number of Mohawks for their services with a tract of land in Ontario, where Brant eventually died. Brant's leadership and skills as a mediator enabled him and his followers to carve out a degree of autonomy while facing Anglo‐American expansionist pressures.


Barbara Graymont , The Iroquois in the American Revolution, 1972.
Isabel Thompson Kelsay , Joseph Brant, 1743–1807: Man of Two Worlds, 1984.

James D. Drake

Brant, Joseph

views updated May 23 2018

Brant, Joseph (1742–1807) Mohawk chief. He served in the French and Indian Wars (1754–63) and in Pontiac's Rebellion (1763–66). He attended an Anglican school and became an interpreter for missionaries. In return for securing an alliance between the Iroquois and the British, Brant gained a commission in the British Army in 1775. He fought with great courage for the British during the American Revolution.

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Joseph Brant

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Updated Aug 13 2018 About content Print Topic