The Wyoming Massacre, that fateful day of July 3, 1778…

A great deal has been written about the Battle of Wyoming which took placed on July 3, 1778 in the Wyoming Valley, located in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Philip Goss IV was there with his family when these events took place; however, it is difficult to find any specific information about their role in the battle and events. Solomon Goss was held prisoner is Forty-Fort as stated in the history books.

What I share here is just a quick account of what happened that sad day. At the end I will share some sources were you might go and get more information and more detail.

“During the last days of June 1778, when it became known that the enemy in great force was approaching Wyoming, the inhabitants generally sought the protection afforded by the several forts. Probably the largest number gathered at Forty Fort, owing to its larger dimensions and promise of great security. The militia likewise mustered at this point, marching from their several stations when the alarm was given, having first detached a few of their number to add to the garrisons of the other forts.

Meantime the enemy, numbering about eleven hundred men, under command of Major John Butler, had descended the Susquehanna river in boats and landed a few miles above Wyoming. The enemy’s force were made up of two hundred British Provincials and a like number of Tories, and about seven hundred Indians, chiefly Senecas and Cayugas.

The Wyoming Valley the area under attack in 1778

From the point of landing they marched by a route at a distance from the river and reached their destination on the night of July 1st, and camped on the mountain near the head of the Valley, four miles north of Forty-Fort. After having gained some small successes in the capture of two stockaded forts, they sent a flag, July 2d, to Forty-Fort, demanding the surrender of the several forts in the Valley together with all Continental Stores. This demand was refused, and preparations were made to attack the enemy.

A Closer look at the area of the battle

Every available man was assembled at the fort, and the chief command given by common consent to Col. Zebulon Butler, a Continental officer at home on furlough. The force gathered at Forty-Fort numbered less than four hundred, made up of six companies of militia, the train bands, and old men and boys…

Forty-Fort what they believe it looked like

Scouts reported the enemy driving off cattle, plundering in the vicinity and preparing to leave the Valley. Of the number of the enemy they could give no information; it was, however, believed to be much smaller than in fact it was. These circumstances perhaps precipitated the battle.

Deceived both in the number and purpose of the enemy, our men marched on the afternoon of July 3, 1778, to engage them in battle. After a march of three miles they formed in line of battle, presenting a front of some five hundred yards; in this order they advanced toward the enemy over ground covered with scrub-oaks and pitch pine, not high enough to obstruct the vision, but well adapted to form a cover for the Indians. The right of our line resting on a hill not far from the river was commanded by Col. Butler supported by Major John Garrett; the left stretching toward a marsh to the northwest, was under command of Col. Denison and Lieut. Col. Dorrance.

The enemy’s left wing, composed of British Provincials, was commanded by Major John Butler; next to them, and forming the centre were the Tories under Captains Pawling and Hopkins, on the right were the Indians. The enemy’s right rested upon a marsh, and behind the thick foliage of its undergrowth there lay concealed a large number of Indian warriors.

At the word of command our men advanced and delivered a rapid fire with steadiness, which was returned by the enemy who slowly fell back before our advancing column. Advancing thus for the distance of a mile our line found themselves in a cleared space of several acres, where, unprotected by any undergrowth, they were exposed to galling fire from the British who were shielded by a kind of breastwork formed in part by a log fence running across the upper part of the clearing. The advance was checked, and at this moment the horde of Indians rushed from the swamp and in overwhelming numbers, with war whoop and brandishing of spears, fell upon our left, attacking it in flank and rear.

Confusion ensued, orders were misunderstood or could not be executed. The left wing was forced back toward the right, the column was broken, and the day lost. Lieut. Col. Dorrance fell mortally wounded, Major John Garrett was killed; “every captain fell at his position in the line, and there the men lay like sheaves of wheat after the harvesters.” 

In the flight from the field the men began moving off in squads firing at their pursuers, until decimated by fire and borne down by numbers, they fled as best they might. Some reached Forty-Fort, other fled to the river, and a few of these succeeded in crossing and reaching Wilkes-Barre. Those who were taken were either killed outright or reserved for death by torture the following evening.

Our loss is variously estimated at from one hundred and sixty to two hundred. Major John Butler, the commander of the enemy, says two hundred and twenty-seven scalps were taken. The loss of the enemy is unknown, but it is believed to have been from forty to eighty. 

Such was the battle of Wyoming, very briefly and imperfectly told.

Col. Denison escaped from the field and assumed command at Forty-Fort. On the following day, the 4th of July, a second demand was made by the enemy for its surrender. There was no means at hand for further resistance, and the terms offered being looked upon as favorable as could be expected under the circumstances, the fort was given up in accordance with the following articles:

Westmoreland, July 4, 1778.

“Capitulation made and completed between Major John Butler, on behalf of His Majesty King George the Third, and Col. Nathan Denison, of the United States of America. Note Zebulon Butler was staying away because he did not want to be captured and taken prisoner along with other officers.

  • Art. 1. That the inhabitants of the settlement lay down their arms and the garrisons be demolished.
  • 2d. That the inhabitants are to occupy their farms peaceably and the lives of the inhabitants preserved entire and unhurt.
  • 3d. That the Continental stores be delivered up.
  • 4th. That Major Butler will use his utmost influence that the private property of the inhabitants shall be preserved entire to them.
  • 5th That the prisoners in Forty-Fort be delivered up, and that Samuel Finch, now in Major Butler’s possession, be delivered up also.
  • 6th That the property taken from the people called Tories, up the river, be made good; and they to remain in peaceable possession of their farms, unmolested in a free trade, in and throughout this State, as far as lies in my power.
  • 7th. That the inhabitants, that Col. Denison now capitulates for, together with himself, do not take up arms during the present contest.”

These articles having been duly executed the fort was immediately surrendered.

Source: Report of the Commission to Locate the site of the Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania, Vol. 1, 2nd Edition, edited by Thomas L. Montgomery, Litt. D., Harrisburg, 1916. Wyoming Valley Forts, page. 439 to 442, CD-ROM, Retrospect Publishing, Alexandria, VA. 1st Edition.

As Charles Miner put it his book (see below)…”The battle was over but the massacre then began.” What took place after July 3, 1778 was equally sad and terrible and many lost their lives. Here is a list of some sources that might help shed light on this horrible day and the aftermath.

Below are links to an online versions of the event described above.  I have also listed other sources in recent past posts that you really should try to find and review.

  • “The Battle of Wyoming.”
  • The Battle of Wyoming, Wikipedia
  • The Massacre of Wyoming, The Acts of Congress for the Defense of the Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania, 1776 to 1778 with the Petitions of the Sufferers by the Massacre of July 3, 1778 for Congressional Aid, Rev. Horace Hayden, M.A., Wyoming Historical and Geological Society (now Luzerne County Historical Society), 1895. Online at Internet Archive.
  • The History of Wilkes-Barre by Oscar J. Harvey, Vol. I, II and III. on line at Internet Archive for viewing.
  • History of Wyoming in a Series of Letters from Charles Miner to his son William Penn Miner, Esq., 1845 by published by J. Chrissy, Philadelphia. Pages 209 to 258 Letters XVII and XVIII regarding the Battle of Wyoming and events that followed. Online at Internet Archive. Go to this link it is a better copy:
Posted in Solomon Goss (Jr.) and Polly Coburn Devol, Susquehanna River, Westmoreland Twp and later County, Wyoming Massacre, Wyoming Valley | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Revolutionary War service and involvement of the Goss Family…a summary!

Mrs. Flora Montanye Osborn did a great deal of research on our family back in 1939 through to her death in 1951. I have featured her on a page at the top of this blog if you are curious. She is under Researchers of the Past and now!  Flora is a descendant of Levi Goss, son of Solomon Goss and Olive Scott Goss and brother to my Lydia Goss.

Flora made a table of Revolutionary War Service for the Goss Family. She was deeply involved with DAR and Mayflower.

Below is the original which I found in a FamilySearch Film in the pages of the Keziah Cooley Goss Chapter of D.A.R. Records.  The information had been sent to Mr. Martin from the Campus Martius Museum in Marietta, Ohio, FHL#940938 Items 4-5.

Please note that this is done in reference to Philip Goss III and Keziah Cooley G0ss the parents of our Philip Goss IV, so don’t get confused when you see grandson.  Those listed are children and grandchildren of this couple.

Flora’s original Revolutionary War for Goss Family

The Thomas Goss who is listed in Flora’s list, is the brother of Philip Goss IV. I will post about Thomas in the future. At this time, I will focus on Philip Goss IV and his sons Nathaniel Goss, Comfort Goss, David Goss, Solomon Goss and Ebenezer Goss’s service.  I will prepare and publish posts on each of these individuals in more detail after I finish up with Philip Goss IV and Mary Kendall Goss. Click the photo below and it will open in another window.

Goss Revolutionary Service by BJM

Here is my retyped version of her chart also presented above. Click on the link and then the attachment and it will open in another window: REVGOSS Family 

Here is the source that Flora cites for 3 of the individuals above: Comfort Goss, Solomon Goss and David Goss.  As I state, more detail on all of these individuals to follow.

pg. 616 – “The mother of the subject of our sketch, and the wife of John Coughlin, was Dianna Seward, daughter of Titus Seward, of Huntington township, in this county. He was a descendant of Enos Seward, Sr. , who was born July 7, 1735, and removed to Huntington in 1793…. Enos, married Sarah Goss, and lived in Granville, Mass., until he moved to Huntington, in 1793, and occupied the farm formerly owned by his wife’s father. Titus Seward was the son of Enos Seward, Jr.

Philip Goss, Sr., was the father of Mrs. Seward and one of the first claimants of land in Huntington. His sons, Philip, Solomon, David, Comfort and Nathaniel, were with their father in the place before the Indian and Tory invasion of 1778. Solomon was a prisoner in Forty Fort with Captain John Franklin, and others, for a short time.

The names of Philip Goss and Comfort Goss are enrolled among the first two hundred settlers who braved the hardships and dangers of the advance force who came to “man their rights.” The name of Goss has been permanent in Huntington since the first advent of the Connecticut settler. Before the massacre and battle of Wyoming the family of Philip Goss, Sr., lived on the farm now occupied by Levi Seward.

Mr. Coughlin married February 20, 1883, Emma Hughes, daughter of Edward Hughes of Kingston township. He was the son of James Hughes who wife was Elizabeth Swetland, daughter of Joseph Swetland, a descendant of Luke Swetland, of Kent, Conn. one of the Connecticut settlers of Wyoming. Mr. and Mrs. Coughlin have but one child living, Annette Coughlin. James M. Coughlin, county superintendent of the public schools of Luzerne county, is an only brother of Dennis O. Coughlin.”

Source:  Families of the Wyoming Valley: biographical, genealogical and historical. Sketches of the bench and bar of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. – Coughlin and Seward, Dennis O”Brien Coughlin, Vol. 2, page 616 – Wilkes-Barre, PA 1885-1890. Online at Internet Archive for viewing and downloading.

Knowing the Revolution War service of those who fought or served in other capacities during the Revolution can lead to membership in the DAR – Daughters of the American Revolution and SAR – Sons of the American Revolution.  I will also discuss this aspect of the Goss Families involvement in future posts.

Most of the source in the above charts are online at Internet Archive or as I have described in past posts on this blog. I suggest that you do your searches online at Internet Archive before downloading the PDF. I have found it difficult to search after downloading a book to my computer.

Posted in Comfort Goss, DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), David Goss and Anna Slater, Ebenezer Goss, Flora Montanye Osborn 1869 to 1951, Huntington Twp., Levi Goss and Sophia Rummerfield, Nathaniel Goss, Philip Goss III b. circa 1700 and Keziah Cooley 1702, Philip Goss IV & Mary (Kendall) Goss, SAR Sons of the American Revolution, Sarah Goss and Enos Seward, Solomon Goss and Olive (Scott) Goss (Son of Philip & Mary (Kendall) Goss, Thomas Goss 1734, Titus Seward, Wyoming Valley | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

24th Regiment & Westmoreland Independent Companies (Wyoming Independent Companies) established…1774

One of my goals was to learn more about the Goss Family’s involvement in the events of the Revolutionary War and how that affected the Wyoming Valley settlement.  This has been no easy task, because of all the fighting over land and other difficulties in the Wyoming Valley which resulted in the destruction of a great deal of the records, especially regarding the local militia.

Paul Revere’s ride 1774 from History Central

I am not an expert on the Revolutionary War, but I finally came to understand that there is what is called the Continental Line or Continental Army and service in this would warrant a pension. So a soldier would probably be on the Revolutionary War Pension lists if they were a soldier in the Continental line.

The next military group was the colonial militias for each colony and you would find information about those soldiers in the archives of the state, like in our case, Pennsylvania or Connecticut.  For the Wyoming Valley, specifically Westmoreland Town and County,  we would look to Connecticut for this information.

The next group would be the local militia for a township or town and I believe the records would be kept by that local government.  In this case, the townships for the Wyoming Valley means that a lot of records were lost with all the fighting. So you need to look at all the different levels of military units/militia.  You will find it a challenge because they liked to reinvent the military units combining them and dissolving others.

Donna Bingham Munger writes in her Settlers book the following:

The settlers took their own protection seriously and in June 1774 formed military companies in each township from the Westmoreland Town Meeting July 27, 1774, WR. Such organization stood them in good stead when the Connecticut Assembly established the 24th Connecticut Regiment at Westmoreland the following May 1775.

Source:  Connecticut’s Pennsylvania Colony, Volume II Settlers pg. 1-11. Also The History of Wilkes-Barre pg. 811 is another source. 

Battle of Wyoming by Dziak

We unanimously join our brethren in American in the common cause of defending our liberty,” declared a panel of Wyoming Valley patriots on August 8, 1775, not long after hearing the news of the first battles of the Revolutionary War. 

The colony of Connecticut assumed a leading role in the fight for American Independence from Britain. The Connecticut settlers in Wyoming Valley quickly followed suit, putting aside all of their other troubles to participate in America’s war for independence. 

The participation came in many forms. Farmers stepped up their production to provide food for American soldiers. Women made time to craft uniforms, knapsacks, and other essentials, including homemade gunpowder.

Meanwhile the settlement’s young men swarmed to enlist in the army. As early as the summer of 1775 many of Wyoming’s most promising men left to join George Washington’s armies gathered near Boston. 

Connecticut was quick to tap the enthusiasm of its settlers in Wyoming. In May 1775, the Connecticut legislature called on them to form their own army, the Twenty-fourth Connecticut Regiment. Wyoming officials quickly obeyed. They drew up plans to form nine companies of soldiers, basing each company on the existing militias that had been formed to protect the settlement. 

Zebulon Butler was made colonel of the Twenty-Fourth Regiment….he soon turned the regiment into a formidable fighting unit… 66

Source for the Above: The Battle of Wyoming For Liberty and Life, Mark G. Dziak, 2008.

In August 1776, the Wyoming settlers met for a town meeting. They…voted to erect suitable forts, as a defense against our common enemy.  The Wyoming colonists set about building new forts, and repairing old ones..most were just log cabins surrounded by log stockades..the best they could hope for pg. 67

In August of 1776 two more companies were to be raised in the town of Westmoreland. Robert Durkee and Samuel Ransom were elected Captains. James Wells and Peren Ross were elected 1st Lts., Ashael Buck and Simon Spalding 2nd Lts, and Herman Swift and Matthias Hollenback Ensigns..of the said companies. These would be Westmoreland’s Independent Companies or Wyoming’s Independent Companies)

Source: History of Wilkes-Barre, Oscar Harvey Jewell, Vol. 2, pg. 883 and on page 892 and 893 the roll for Captain Robert Durkee is given.  S. Ransoms rolls are on pages 893 through 897.  Biographies are in the footnotes for both men on these pages. This volume is online at Internet Archive.

Zebulon Butler would be very involved in the military and political events of the Wyoming Valley for many years. If you would like to learn more about Zebulon Butler’s role there is a wonderful book titled:

Zebulon Butler Book

By early May 1775, news of the events of Lexington and Concord had spread throughout the Colonies. When the Connecticut legislature met at Hartford on May 11, Zebulon Butler and Ezekiel Pierce attended as the Westmoreland representatives. At this session, the Assembly voted to extend the Westmoreland boundaries westward to the Fort Stanwix treaty Line, to erect a Court of Probate, and to appoint Zebulon Butler, Nathan Denison, William Judd, and John Vincent as justices of the peace. In addition, the Assembly voted “That the Town of Westmoreland shall be one Intire Regiment [of militia] distinguish’d and Call’d by the Name of the twenty-fourth Regiment.” Zebulon Butler was appointed colonel, Nathan Denison lieutenant colonel, and William Judd major of the regiment, and they were commissioned as such by the governor….”

Source: Zebulon Butler Hero of the Revolutionary Frontier by James R. Williamson and Linda A. Fossler, Forward by John Lord Butler, Jr., 1995 Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut. This book is a little pricey but you might find copies somewhere.

In, January 1777 General Washington needed troops so Congress ordered the two Westmoreland Independent Companies to Morristown, New Jersey, thus leaving the Wyoming Valley poorly protected from attack.

The two independent companies listed above, eventually ended up as Capt. Spaulding’s Company of Westmoreland, if I read it all correctly. This is all described in The History of Wilkes-Barre Vol. II, on pages 980 and 981 which is available online at Internet Archive.

I have studied the listings for the 24th and the Wyoming Independent companies and had no luck in finding evidence of the Goss family being involved with any of these companies listed above, so this may be why you can’t find Revolutionary war pensions for the Goss family except for Ebenezer Goss who did receive a Revolutionary War pension.

In the next post I will give a short outline of the involvement of the Goss family in the Revolutionary War and follow that up with future detailed posts of each of the family members.


Above, I have listed several sources for research on the Revolutionary War and how it affected the Wyoming Valley settlers.  A brief account of the military units that were created as well.  Here are several more possibilities for research. Be advised that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

  1.  The Susquehanna Frontier, Northeastern Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War Years, by James R. Williamson and Linda A. Fossler. Wilkes University Press, 1997.
  2. Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the I War of the Revolution, II War of 1812, III Mexican War, Compiled by the Authority of the General Assembly, Under Director of the Adjutants-General, Hartford, 1889. This book is online at Internet Archive and I suggest search on-line for it is easier to find things. I find that after I download it becomes harder with my version of Adobe Acrobat. Pages xiv, xii, 131, 157, 168, 169, 263, 264, 265, 266, 267, 268, 295, 301, 311, 318, 337, 359, 440
  3. The Revolutionary War Diary of Lieut. Obadiah Gore, Jr., Edited by R.W. G. Vail, The New York Public Library, 1929. If you can’t find a diary or account you then turn to those who were there that did write diaries like this man. You will find that this editor had a really hard time compiling the history of the service of this man. Lt. Gore would resign from a unit and go seek out service in another so that also made it difficult.  On page 12 I found this quote to be disappointing: “The only remaining units in the brigade were Captain Spaulding’s Independent Wyoming Company and Captain John Franklin’s Wyoming Militia, of neither of which units can a muster roll be found.” I found this book at the David Library for the American Revolution which is north of Philadelphia and a must see archive if you are able:
  4. Military Records check these Archives:  Pennsylvania Archives in Harrisburg, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Connecticut State Library in Hartford, Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford. David Library of the American Revolution. They can be divided up into Records, and Manuscript collections, published sources, finding aids etc.
  5. The Historical Record, A Monthly Publication, The Early History of Wyoming Valley and Contiguous Territory with Notes and Queries…Edited by F.C. Johnson, M.D. Vol. I Sept 1886 to Aug 1887, Press of the Wilkes-Barre Record. Page 211 An Old Time Military Co, Capt. John Franklin 1782. Early Wyoming Militia page 38 looks like a duplicate of the first listing, pay roll of Company Militia under Capt. John Franklin page 1229 dated May 1780. Online at Internet Archive. This is an important magazine for Wyoming Valley history of all topics so check out other Volumes.
  6. Online resources are for military records (Be advised that many Goss names come out of New Hampshire and are descendants of Philip Goss IV’s cousin also named Philip Goss who went to Winchester, NH. Fold3 (formerly Footnote) has pensions and more, Family Search online, the National Archives. You will find a lot at these sites.
  7. DAR Daughters of the American Revolution (Ancestry search), SAR Sons of the American Revolution.

Some Pennsylvania sources:

  1. The Pennsylvania Militia, Defending the Commonwealth and the Nation: 1669-1870, by Samuel J. Newland, Ph.D. This might be helpful for Pennsylvania information. Page 101 and others. Be careful and do not confuse Westmoreland Co., PA est. 2/26/1773 with Westmoreland Co., Litchfield Co., CT.
  2. The Pennsylvania Line, Regimental Organization and Operations, 1775 to 1783, by John B.B. Trussell, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, 1977. This one to my surprise is online at Internet Archive for viewing. You will find on pages 108, 144, 282, 288 information about the Wyoming Valley but mostly this is after the Massacre in 1778.  Westmoreland Co., PA is also featured on pages 54, 59, 102, 106, 112, 166, 170, 174-75, 238, 241. On page 227 The Regiment of Artillery Artificers. I will revisited this when I post about Ebenezer Goss, son of Philip and Mary Goss.
Posted in AMERICAN REVOLUTION & Other Conflicts, Connecticut, Litchefield County, Pennsylvania, Westmoreland Town & County, Wyoming Valley | Tagged , , | Leave a comment