“The Wyoming Massacre”


"Kind heaven assist the trembling muse While she attempts to tell Of poor Wyoming's overthrow By savage sons of hell." "One hundred whites in painted hue, Whom Butler there did lead..." offer terms of surrender to the defenders, then slaughter them


The Wyoming Massacre was perhaps the worst incident of savagery in the Revolutionary War, but was not really atypical. The British, trying to fight a war at the end of a very long supply line, naturally tried to rely on locals as much as possible, and that meant Indians.

And the Indians weren't interested in anything in particular except loot, and the easiest way to provide loot was to allow massacres. On the whole, the Indians probably did the British more harm than good -- they were unreliable and often deserted, and frequently proved ineffective in battle, as e.g. in the Saratoga campaign. And they blackened the British reputation among wavering colonials.

The Wyoming massacre goes far to demonstrate why. John Butler (?-1794), a loyalist commissioned major, brought a force believed to have numbered in excess of 1000 to the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania. The only defence was a small, undermanned fort, and Butler induced it to surrender by offering honorable surrender and safety.

Once the gates were opened, Butler ordered a massacre. Accounts of what happened next vary, but at least two hundred people, and probably many more, died. - RBW

Historical references

  • July 1, 1778 - The Wyoming Massacre


  1. Burt, pp. 129-131, "(A TRAGICAL ACCOUNT of the battle between the People of Wyoming and the Indians of Westmoreland in the year 1778, in which two hundred of the Americans were unhappily sacrificed to the savage barbarity of some treacherous Americans and cruel savages, in a Poem by a Person then resident near the field of battle)" (1 excerpted text)
  2. BI, Burt121


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1958 (Burt)
Found in: US