What is a Blue Jacket?

The Blue Jackets name was selected because the name pays homage to the history of northeastern Pennsylvania's contributions to American history and the great pride and patriotism exhibited by its citizens. The Battle of Wyoming (also known as the Wyoming Massacre) was an encounter during the American Revolutionary War between American Patriots (aka Blue Jackets) and Loyalists accompanied by Iroquois raiders which took place in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania on July 3, 1778 in Exeter and Wyoming, Pennsylvania. More than 300 Patriots were killed in the battle. After the battle, settlers claimed that the Iroquois raiders had hunted and killed fleeing Patriots, then committed ritual torture against 30 to 40 who had surrendered, until they died.

The British forces arrived in the valley on June 30, having alerted the settlers to their approach by killing three men working at an unprotected gristmill on June 28. The next day, Colonel Butler sent a surrender demand to the militia at Wintermute's (Wintermoot) fort. Terms were arranged in which the defenders would surrender the fort with all their arms and stores and would then be released on the condition that they not bear arms again during the war. On July 3, however, the British saw that the defenders were gathering in great numbers outside of Forty Fort. William Caldwell was engaged in destroying Jenkin's fort with the American militia a mile away, so Butler organized an ambush. He ordered Fort Wintermute to be set on fire, and the Patriots believed that it signified a British retreat and advanced rapidly. Butler told the Seneca to lie flat on the ground so as not to be seen. The militia advanced to within a hundred yards of the British rangers and fired three volleys at them. The Seneca rose to their feet, fired one time, and then charged to engage in hand to hand combat.

The battle lasted about 45 minutes. An order to reform the Patriot line instead turned into a frantic rout, as the inexperienced militiamen panicked and began to run. It became a deadly race from which only about 60 Patriots escaped. The Loyalists and Iroquois killed almost all who were captured, and only five prisoners were taken alive. Butler reported that his Indian allies had taken 227 scalps.

The next morning, Colonel Nathan Denison agreed to surrender Forty Fort and two other posts, along with what remained of his militia. Butler paroled them on their promise to take no part in further hostilities. The British spared non-combatants, although they molested a few inhabitants after the forts' surrender. Colonel Butler wrote:

But what gives me the sincerest satisfaction is that I can, with great truth, assure you that in the destruction of the settlement not a single person was hurt except such as were in arms, to these, in truth, the Indians gave no quarter.

An American farmer wrote: "Happily these fierce people, satisfied with the death of those who had opposed them in arms, treated the defenseless ones, the woman and children, with a degree of humanity almost hitherto unparalleled".

According to one source, 60 Patriot bodies were found on the battlefield and another 36 on the line of retreat. All were buried in a common grave.

The battle and massacre is commemorated each year by the Wyoming Commemorative Association, a local non-profit organization, which holds a ceremony on the grounds of the monument dedicated to the battle. The Wyoming Monument is the site of a mass grave containing the bones of many of the victims of the battle and massacre. The commemorative ceremonies began in 1878, to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle and massacre. The principal speaker at the event was President Rutherford B. Hayes.

The annual program has continued each year since then on the grounds. One hundred and seventy-eight names of Patriots killed in the battle are listed on the Wyoming Monument, and the names of about a dozen militia who were killed or died in captivity a day or so prior to the main battle. A possible explanation for the difference between the number of names on the monument (178) and the reported number of scalps taken in the battle (227) is that allegedly numerous civilians (perhaps as many as 200)—instead of surrendering to Colonel Butler—elected to flee and died of exposure in a swamp known as the "Shades of Death" after the battle.

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