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.
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.
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…
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.” http://www.pagenweb.org/~luzerne/patk/wyoming.html
- The Battle of Wyoming, Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Wyoming
- 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: