Glenn Williams: Clears up myths about GW's campaign against Iroquois

Historians in the News

Glenn Williams likes to live dangerously. He had us all in the same frame of mind at our February meeting when he told us that his book, The Year of the Hangman, George Washington's Campaign Against the Iroquois was taking on some formidable opponents. Some historians pronounced this 1779 venture into northern New York "a well executed military failure." Other scholars called it ethnic cleansing and claimed it drove the Indians still further into the British camp. Still others claimed it did nothing for the American war effort and asked why the expedition failed to capture Fort Niagara, the headquarters of the British partisan war on the Canadian border. Glenn took on all of these charges and told us how he disproved each of them in his hard-hitting book. The expedition was anything but a military failure. It wrecked the Iroquois' war making ability by destroying their villages and orchards and cornfields - the same sort of havoc the Indians had wreaked on Cherry Valley and other towns in New York and Pennsylvania. There was no ethnic cleansing -- the Americans did not kill women or children - something the Indians did repeatedly. It did not drive more Indians into the British camp. Most of the Iroquois were already there. It gave the U.S. war effort a big much needed boost in self confidence by marching almost 5,000 men hundreds of miles and getting them back in time to defend the towns and cities of the nation at the start of the next campaign. The Americans did not capture Fort Niagara because it was never an objective. That would have required a time consuming siege. Round Tablers came away with renewed admiration for General George Washington and his field commander, the often unlucky John Sullivan - and for Mr. Williams and his prize-winning book. There were zero unsigned copies left on Treasurer Davis's table by time we all headed home with lots of history to think about.

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