Sugarloaf massacre

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Sugarloaf massacre
Part of American Revolutionary War
DateSeptember 11, 1780
Northampton County volunteer militia
Commanders and leaders
Unknown, possibly Roland Montour Lieutenant John Fish, Lieutenant John Moyer
Unknown, at least 30 41 men
Casualties and losses
Unknown At least 10 dead
2 captured
Unknown number wounded

The Sugarloaf massacre was a skirmish that occurred on September 11, 1780, in Pennsylvania when a number of Natives and a handful of loyalists attacked a small detachment of militia from Northampton County. [2] According to pension files and witness depositions, the militia detachment was led by Lieutenants John Moyer and John Fish of Captain Johannes Van Etten's company of volunteers. [1]

Loyalist (American Revolution) Colonists loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution

Loyalists were American colonists who stayed loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolutionary War, often called Tories, Royalists, or King's Men at the time. They were opposed by the "Patriots", who supported the revolution, and called them "persons inimical to the liberties of America". Prominent Loyalists repeatedly assured the British government that many thousands of them would spring to arms and fight for the crown. The British government acted in expectation of that, especially in the southern campaigns in 1780-81. In practice, the number of Loyalists in military service was far lower than expected since Britain could not effectively protect them except in those areas where Britain had military control. The British were often suspicious of them, not knowing whom they could fully trust in such a conflicted situation; they were often looked down upon. Patriots watched suspected Loyalists very closely and would not tolerate any organized Loyalist opposition. Many outspoken or militarily active Loyalists were forced to flee, especially to their stronghold of New York City. William Franklin, the royal governor of New Jersey and son of Patriot leader Benjamin Franklin, became the leader of the Loyalists after his release from a Patriot prison in 1778. He worked to build Loyalist military units to fight in the war, but the number of volunteers was much fewer than London expected.

Northampton County, Pennsylvania County in the United States

Northampton County is a county located in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the population was 297,735. Its county seat is Easton. The county was formed in 1752 from parts of Bucks County. Its namesake was Northamptonshire and the county seat of Easton is named for the country house Easton Neston.



Previous violence between the Iroquois and settlers was one of the contributing factors to the events of the Sugarloaf Massacre. In 1780, there were a large number of attacks by Natives in the vicinity where the massacre took place, including an attempted attack on Moses Van Campen. [3] On June 15, 1780, a group of militia in Northampton were commissioned to serve for seven months, led by Captain Johannes Van Etten. [4] [1]

Moses Van Campen American Revolutionary War scout and Indian-fighter

Major Moses Van Campen (1757–1849) was a soldier during the American Revolutionary War. He was a prominent figure in Pennsylvania and parts of New York. His primary involvement in the Revolutionary War was in fighting against hostile Native American tribes. He began work as a soldier in 1775 and retired from military service in 1783. Van Campen was familiar with Native American methods of warfare. He also participated in the Sullivan Expedition in 1779.

Northampton, Pennsylvania Place in Pennsylvania, United States

Northampton is a borough in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, in the United States. The borough is located in the Lehigh Valley region of eastern Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, Northampton's population was 9,926.

The communities of Bloomsburg and Catawissa were home to large numbers of Loyalists who aided the British during the American Revolutionary War, [1] and a detachment of 41 of Van Etten's men headed to Northumberland to investigate these settlements in 1780. [5] They were placed under the command of Lieutenants Moyer and Fish, and they left Northampton County in the beginning of September 1780 from Fort Allen and headed into Sugarloaf Valley [Murder Along the Creek 1] to search for Loyalist sympathizers and spies. Upon leaving the fort, Klader's men crossed the Lehigh River and traveled to the community of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania [ dubious ] and then to Nesquehoning Creek, where they camped. The next day, they traveled over Broad Mountain and through a stretch of wilderness known as the "Haselschwamp," which is now Hazleton. [6] They passed through the swamp on September 10. [7]

Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania Town in Pennsylvania, United States

Bloomsburg is a town in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, United States, located 40 miles (64 km) southwest of Wilkes-Barre along the Susquehanna River. It is the county seat of Columbia County and the only incorporated town in Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, Bloomsburg had a population of 14,855, with an estimated population of 14,519 in 2013.

Catawissa, Pennsylvania Borough in Pennsylvania, United States

Catawissa is a borough in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 1,552 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Bloomsburg–Berwick Metropolitan Statistical Area.

American Revolutionary War War between Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies, which won independence as the United States of America

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was an 18th-century war between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies which declared independence as the United States of America.

On September 6, approximately 250 to 300 Native and British soldiers arrived at Fort Rice, near Chillisquaque Creek in Lewis Township, Northumberland County. They attacked the fort and the surrounding residences, but Colonel Hunter sent some troops from Fort Jenkins to their aid. Approximately 200 men arrived at Fort Rice, and the British and Natives dispersed. Upon retreating, these people went over Knob Mountain and a group of 30 to 40 of them went down the stream known as Cabin Run to Fort Jenkins, which they burned down, along with numerous buildings in the fort's vicinity. They then crossed the Susquehanna River and went to Sugarloaf Valley in southwestern Luzerne County. [8]

Chillisquaque Creek river in Pennsylvania

Chillisquaque Creek is a tributary of the West Branch Susquehanna River in Montour County and Northumberland County, in Pennsylvania, in the United States. It is approximately 20.2 miles (32.5 km) long and flows through Derry Township, Washingtonville, and Liberty Township in Montour County and East Chillisquaque Township and West Chillisquaque Township in Northumberland County. The watershed of the creek has an area of 112 square miles (290 km2). Agricultural impacts have caused most of the streams in the watershed of the creek to be impaired. Causes of impairment include sedimentation/siltation and habitat alteration. The average annual discharge of the creek between 1980 and 2014 ranged from 48.2 to 146.0 cubic feet per second. Its watershed mainly consists of rolling agricultural land. The creek's channel flows through rock formations consisting of sandstone and shale. It is a warmwater stream.

Lewis Township, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania Township in Pennsylvania, United States

Lewis Township is a township in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population at the 2010 Census was 1,915, up from 1,862 at the 2000 census.

Susquehanna River river in the northeastern United States

The Susquehanna River is a major river located in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic United States. At 444 miles (715 km) long, it is the longest river on the East Coast of the United States that drains into the Atlantic Ocean. With its watershed, it is the 16th-largest river in the United States, and the longest river in the early 21st-century continental United States without commercial boat traffic.

The attack and aftermath

The men of the volunteer detachment had just sat down to eat dinner on September 11, 1780, according to survivor Peter Crum, when the Loyalists and Natives started firing muskets at them. Ten militiamen were killed, according to Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Balliet, who had gone with a small force of 150 militia to bury the dead. He wrote in his report:

"On the first notice of this unfortuned event the officers of the militia have Exerted themselves to get Volunteers out of their Respective Divissions to go up & Burry the Dead, their Labour Proved not in Vain we collected about 150 men & officers Included from the Colonels Kern, Giger & my own Battalions who would undergo the fatique & Danger to go their & pay that Respect to their slautered Brethren, Due to men who fell in support of the freedom of their Country. On the 15th we took up our line of march (want of amunation prevented us from going Sooner) on the 17th we arrived at the place of action, where we found Ten of our Soldiers Dead, Scalped, Striped Naked, & in a most cruel & Barborous manner Tomehawked, their throads Cut, &c. &c. whom we Buried & Returned without even seeing any of these Black alies, & Bloody executors of British Tirany." [9]

Balliet's burial detail apparently skirmished with some scouts from the Loyalist and Native forces while burying the dead, as Balliet went on to report:

"We also have great Reason to beleve that several of the Indians have been killed by our men, in Particular one by Col. Kern & an other by Capt. Moyer both of whome went Volunteers with this partie." [9]

Most of the militiamen escaped, with Lieutenant John Moyer, Ensign Scoby, and an unnamed private taken prisoner. Moyer managed to escape, but the other two men were taken to Niagara. Moyer traveled to Fort Wyoming, which he reached on September 14. [3]

After the skirmish, the Loyalist and Native war party searched the surrounding area for several hours. The next day, they took their prisoners down Nescopeck Creek and towards the Susquehanna River before turning towards Berwick and Catawissa, Pennsylvania. [3] The soldiers who escaped the massacre spread the news as far as the Delaware River. [10]

In 1933, the Pennsylvania Historical Commission, the Wyoming Historical and Genealogical Society, and the Sugarloaf Commemorative Committee built a memorial near the location of the massacre. In 1947, a historical marker was installed on Pennsylvania Route 93, near Conyngham. [3]


Number of men killed

The number of militiamen killed in action at the skirmish is difficult to confirm. The earliest and best source, Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Balliet, reported that ten men were buried. Samuel Rea, the County Lieutenant of Northampton County, indicated that Balliet's numbers were probably the most accurate:

"Col. Baliort [Balliet] informs me that he had Given Council a relation of the killed and wounded he had found Burned near Neskipeki as he was at the place of action his Accts must be as near the truth as any I could procure..." [11]

Lieutenant Moyer, upon his return, said he had seen thirteen scalps on the belts of his captors, but it is hard to believe that they let him count the scalps while he was detained. Captain Van Etten did take a return at the end of the Volunteer's tour of duty, in January, 1781. He indicates that 14 men were killed on September 11, 1780. [1] But at least three of these men—George Schellhammer, Peter Crum, and Baltzar Snyder—show up on a few months later, and again in returns the following year, as substitutes (volunteers, not drafted) in Captain William Moyer's (father of Lieutenant John Moyer) company of militia and again a year later, in 1783. [1] Peter Crum lived long enough to file a pension in 1833. [1] It is likely that Van Etten did not know who had been killed (his company was spread over two dozen miles, east to west, along frontier forts in Northampton County) or these men had deserted after the massacre and returned to their farms. [1]

The number commonly believed, 15, is not sustainable according to the evidence. Thus the plaque at the site listing that many names is inaccurate.[ citation needed ]

Captain Daniel Klader

No historical evidence exists which places a man named Daniel Klader at the scene. No correspondence or militia returns mention his name. No birth record, marriage record, or death record for him exists. Not a single survivor mentions his name or his death in their depositions and not a single surviving pension file from any of the Volunteers indicate that they served under a Daniel Klader of any kind. [1]

The earliest mention of a Daniel Klader is in the late 19th Century, almost one-hundred years after the events took place. The name is given as an alternative to John Moyer having head the company, and no source is cited or evidence given for this name being included. The best possible explanation seems to be a misidentification; some of the soldiers who served in Van Etten's company of volunteers later served a tour under Captain Jacob Klader (who was not a member of Van Etten's company). [1] Thus it is likely that someone conflated their service under Van Etten with Jacob Klader, as it common in pension files from the 1830s onward. However, given the lack of any available evidence to support the claim that a Daniel Klader was at the massacre, or that he led the company, it has been proposed that no such man was there and might have been wholly invented by the individual who wrote the article in the 19th Century. [1]

See also


    1. Referred to as Scotch Valley in the 1700s

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    1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Thomas Verenna (July 6, 2015), Murder Along the Creek: Taking a Closer Look at the Sugarloaf Massacre, (Journal of the American Revolution), retrieved July 6, 2015
    2. Kent Jackson (June 24, 2015), "Author presents evidence of inconsistencies on Sugarloaf Massacre marker, monument", The Hazleton Standard-Speaker, retrieved July 6, 2015
    3. 1 2 3 4 Rogan H. Moore (2000), The Bloodstained Field: A History of the Sugarloaf Massacre, September 11, 1780, p. 19
    4. Moore, p. 26
    5. Pennsylvania Archives Ser. 1, Vol 8, 560-561
    6. Untiled article by Richard Funk, Hazleton Standard-Speaker, April 28, 2001
    7. Moore, p. 34
    8. Moore, p. 33
    9. 1 2 The Pennsylvania Archives, Ser. 1, Vol. 8, (1907) 564-565.
    10. John Niles Hubbard (1842), Sketches of border adventures: in the life and times of Major Moses Van Campen , retrieved July 10, 2013
    11. Pennsylvania Archives Ser. 1, Vol. 8, 592.

    Works cited

    Coordinates: 41°00′40″N75°59′20″W / 41.011°N 75.989°W / 41.011; -75.989