Massachusetts Indians in the Revolutionary War

Each state in the DAR Forgotten Patriot’s book is arranged separately.  Quite a bit of history of both African and Native Americans relative to the war is given.  About 1700 total people of color were found to have served out of approximately 68,000 Massachusetts soldiers. 

The Indians in Massachusetts were broken into two groups. Most were small tribal groups, members of the Wampanoag Confederation, on the east coast near Cape Cod, but another group of over 200 Stockbridge Indians lived near Stockbridge in western Massachusetts.  The Stockbridge were Mahican Indians. Both the Wampanoag tribes and the Stockbridge were Algonquian language speakers. 

After the alarm was given at Lexington on April 19, 1775 a committee of the Provincial Congress was instructed “to pay the sum of 23 pounds….to be employed in purchasing a number of blankets and some ribbons which they are to present to the Indians enlisted.”  A few days later, Capt. Solomon Uhhaunauwanumt, Chief sachem of the Stockbridge Indians, expressed a position favorable to the Americans in a lengthy address to the Provincial Congress.  At the end of the war, more than half of his tribe would be dead, and those who survived were mostly widows.

In order to encourage Indian participation, Henries Vomhavi, an Indian, was allowed to keep a little horse which he had taken during skirmished at Noddles Island near Boston. 

The Indians did fight with the Americans, but they paid dearly.  In May 1775, Abraham Nimham, a Stockbridge Indian, was paid for carrying a message.  In October 1777, it was instructed that 200 dollars be paid to Abraham Nimham and his companions “as an acknowledgement for their zeal in the cause of the United States.”  It’s unclear whether this is “pay” or a bonus.  However, Abraham is the “old sachem” that, along with a young chief, Nimham, was brutally murdered by the British in a skirmish near Kingsbridge, NY on Aug. 31, 1778.  A total of 30 Indians died that day and many more were wounded.

The Indians did not necessarily serve close to home.  A unit in Berkshire County included some men from Stockbridge and also Mashpee Indians from Barnstable County, at the other end of the state. 

The Mashpee and Stockbridge suffered heavy losses.  Reverend Gideon Hawley, minister to the Mashpee, stated in 1783 that “at that time, there were no less than 70 widows on the plantation.  Most of the widows had lost their husbands during the war.”

By the end of the war, more than half the Stockbridge Indians were dead.  In 1785, the survivors migrated to the Oneida reservation in New Stockbridge, NY.  On Dec. 2, 1794, those survivors were parties to a treaty with the United States which was made as payment for the services of the Indians during the war.  The treaty granted the Stockbridge, Oneida and Tuscarora Indians 5000 dollars, to be divided among the three groups.  It also provided that a sawmill, a gristmill and a church be built in the country of the Oneidas. 

The Revolutionary War nearly obliterated the Indian population in Massachusetts between deaths during the war and subsequent removals.  However, as we see in later records, not everyone removed or died.  A few stayed in their native homelands, mostly near Cape Cod. where they became the ancestors of the Mashpee tribe today.  The Mashpee obtained federal recognition in 2007.  You can read more about them at this link:  http://mashpeewampanoagtribe.com/

Tribes listed by name as having at least one tribal member serve from Massachusetts in the Revolutionary War were;

  • Nipmuc
  • Mashpee
  • Penobscot
  • Punkapoag/Poncapoag
  • Stockbridge

In the Massachusetts records, as compared to the records from Maine and the states further north, there are a great deal of records that indicate admixture.  Often these say “mulatto” or “mixed” but they never say what is mixed with what.  In some cases, I could make an educated guess based on the surname or the location, but without documentation, it’s only that, so I have not listed anyone in the names document who wasn’t noted as Indian in the Forgotten Patriots document.

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About robertajestes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in Mashpee, Massachusetts, Oneida, Stockbridge, Tuscarora, Wampanoag. Bookmark the permalink.

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