Newtown Battlefield State Park in Elmira, New York

Visitors to this historic site camp and picnic where a notorious Mohawk leader was finally defeated by American forces during the Revolutionary War.

The Battle of Newtown, August 29, 1779, was the culminating battle of the Sullivan Expedition, a punitive expedition led by American Maj. General John Sullivan and Brig. General James Clinton against Tories (British loyalists) and four Iroquois Confederation tribes who sided with the British during the Revolutionary War. They destroyed over 40 Iroquois villages and stores of winter crops in the future heartland of New York State. Today, the Battle of Newtown is commemorated at Newtown Battlefield State Park.

In the summer of 1779, the Revolutionary War on the northern frontier became a border war, with skirmishes and massacres as Tories and their Iroquois allies sought to sew havoc among their rebellious neighbors. They were led by John Butler, leader of an irregular militia called “Butler’s Rangers,” and Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), a Mohawk leader and commander of “Brant’s Volunteers.” They and approximately 250 Butler’s Rangers and 1,000 Iroquois warriors fortified a hill overlooking the Chemung River.

Maj. General Sullivan and 3,200 Continental regulars and two militia companies discovered their position, which was just ten miles upriver from their base camp in northern Pennsylvania. Despite attacking uphill against a fortified position, the Colonials were successful because they maneuvered through the dense swamp and forest to strike at the Loyalist’s flanks and rear. Eleven were killed and 23 wounded in the assault. The British and Iroquois lost 17 killed and 16 wounded.

Today, the battlefield (approximately–no one knows its precise location) lies near and within Newtown Battlefield State Park. Several roadside plaques and monuments explain the campaign’s background as you get closer to the park entrance. The 372-acre state park was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965. Visitors can camp, hunt, and picnic there in the shadow of a white granite obelisk was erected in 1912, which replaced an older monument from 1879.

Newtown Battlefield State Park is located at 2346 County Rd 60 outside Elmira, New York. The park is open from May through the end of October. No parking or entrance fees are collected, but camping is permitted for $15.00 to $25.00/night. Cabins are available for $294 a week or $73.5 per day (1/4 the weekly charge). For more information, call (607) 732-6067.

Author: Michael Kleen

Michael Kleen is an author, raconteur, and occasional traveler. He has a M.A. in History and M.S. in Education. He enjoys studying military history, folklore, and philosophy.

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