EDE - "Ensign Downing's Escape" - Battle of Wyoming, July 3, 1778

EDE - "Ensign Downing's Escape" - Battle of Wyoming, July 3, 1778

Available Format of Print:
350 Signed/Numbered (available)
Overall: 30.75" x 24.25"
Image: 26.75" x 20"

Artist Proof (available)
50 Signed/Numbered
Overall: 30.75" x 24.25"
Image: 26.75" x 20"

Canvas Giclee (printed as ordered)
25 Signed/Numbered
Overall: 33" x 25"

At 78 years of age, Gabriel Cory was already a townsman of some celebrity in Milford, the seat of Pike County, Pennsylvania, on this cold Wednesday morning, January 23, 1833. As he lowered his right arm from giving sworn oath and was seated before the three justices of the court of common pleas, his gaze and mind sharpened. As required by the Pension Act of 1832, he was being asked to recount for the court the dates, places and key events of his service as a Revolutionary War soldier, now a half-century distant. After serving militia tours during 1776 and 1777 in his native New York and in New Jersey, he “… settled at Kingston on the Susquehanna River …,” opposite Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. This idyllic upper Susquehanna’s Wyoming Valley had been first colonized only during the prior decade by two combative factions of settlers from Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The outbreak of the Revolution found the “Yankees” in dominance, produced the designation of their martial contingent as the 24th Connecticut Regiment of Militia, and yielded their resolution to “unanimously join our brethren in America in the common cause of defending our liberty.”

As a rich granary and livestock source for Washington’s army, the valley concurrently drew the attention of the British command in Canada and, in particular, that of Major John Butler, director of the Indian Department at Fort Niagara. As the initial neutrality of the Iroquois Confederacy deteriorated, and while Butler’s new Rangers Corps of Loyalists was formed, the valley became a primary target. During the early summer of 1778, as Gabriel Cory now testified “… the inhabitants of the valley of Wyoming received information that the Indians were preparing to make an attack on the people …” and “… he was drafted for the term of four months … as a private in the Pennsylvania militia.”

“About the first of July … the Indians was discovered to be in the neighborhood of Kingston. Our commanding officers, Colonels [Zebulon] Butler and [Nathan] Denison, gave orders [on 3 July] to march against the Indians & Tories. After a march of about three miles the Indians met us and gave battle. The American army counted of four hundred & forty men, that of the Indians & Tories of one thousand. After a severe and bloody engagement the Americans gave way having been nearly all killed. Deponent had a brother in this engagement who was taken prisoner and, after having the Indians’ spears run through him several times, he was burned to death.”

“… after the retreat of the Americans … he retreated on[to] an island in the Susquehanna River, where he was kept by the Indians for three days, they having surrounded the island, and while on the island one of his neighbors who had fled there with him was shot down by deponent’s side and scalped in his presence when asking for quarter. During this scene deponent lay concealed in a bunch of grape vines. After wandering through the woods five days without any other sustenance than the buds of trees & shrubs afforded he returned to the fort and early the next morning the fort was deserted by the Americans and deponent returned to the state of New York.”

Through extremely deficient reconnaissance plus bravado, the virtually untrained combination of “Yankee” and Pennsylvania militiamen were able to fire only three volleys before, at 100 yards distance, Butler’s Rangers and Seneca warriors arose from lying flat on the ground, fired and charged from both front and flank. Near three-quarters of the militia were dispatched, while Major Butler reported a mere three killed and eight wounded, adding that five prisoners and 227 scalps were taken. Given the circumstances, Ensign Daniel Downing, in the bushes at the far right, Private Gabriel Cory, and a few dozen others who escaped to fight another day were clearly among the wisest and luckiest of men.

Bob McDonald (www.RevWar74.com)

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