Esopus Wars

Esopus Wars

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Esopus Wars

date=September 1659-September 1663
place=New Netherland
causus belli=
result=Dutch victory
combatant1= settlers
combatant2=Esopus tribe of Lenape Indians
commander1=Captain Martin Cregier
commander2=Chief Papequanaehen

The Esopus Wars were two localized conflicts between Dutch settlers and the Esopus tribe of Lenape Indians during the latter half of the 17th century in what is now Ulster County, New York. Like many other wars during the colonial period they were brought about by the clash of European and Indian cultures, the first war having started over paranoia on the part of the settlers, and the second war a continuation of that grudge on the part of the Esopus tribe.cite news | last=Smith|first=Jesse J.| title=Esopus Indian wars were 'the clash of cultures'| date=2005-05-29 | url=| accessdate=2006-06-05|publisher=The Daily Freeman]

The most lasting result of the wars was the display of power by the Esopus. Although there had been other Indian Wars, the timing of these two wars coincided with the broadening of British interests in the Dutch territories of the New World. The difficult time had by the Dutch in defeating the Esopus made it clear to the British that they would need to be more diplomatic when the time came for them to deal with the natives of New Netherland.cite web|author=Ulster County Clerk|title=Richard Nicolls Esopus Indian Treaty |date=2002|url=|accessdate=2006-05-06]


In 1609, Henry Hudson explored the river which bears his name. Many of the natives he encountered had never seen white men before and, in fact, some were unaware that there were any other people in the world. So it disturbed them when, only five years later, a Dutch trading post was established where Kingston, New York stands today. This land was occupied by the Esopus tribe, who used it for farming. They soon destroyed the post and drove the settlers back to the south. A new settlement was established there in 1652, but the feelings of the Esopus tribe had not changed and the new colonists were again driven out.cite book | author=Sylvester| title=History of Ulster County| year=1880 |publisher=Huguenot Historical Society| url=]

Seeing important farming potential in the land, however, the Dutch returned to the area once more in 1658, this time building a stockade to defend the village. The colony was named Wiltwijck. Skirmishes still continued, but the Esopus tribe was no longer able to repel the Europeans. Instead, the Esopus granted the land to the settlers, hoping to contain the foreigners and keep them from overrunning too much of their important crop land.cite book | author=Sylvester| title=History of Ulster County| year=1880 |publisher=Huguenot Historical Society| url=]

First Esopus War

The first Esopus war was a short-lived conflict between Dutch farmers and natives from the Esopus tribe, largely started by fear and misunderstanding on the part of the settlers. On September 20, 1659, several Esopus tribesmen were hired to do some farm work for the settlers. After they had finished and had received their pay in brandy, a drunken native fired a musket in celebration. Although no one was hurt, some the Dutch townsfolk suspected foul play. Even after a group of soldiers investigated and found no bad intentions, a mob of farmers and soldiers went out and attacked the offending natives. Most of them escaped, however, and returned the next day with hundreds of reinforcements, destroying crops, killing livestock, and burning buildings.

Completely outnumbered and outgunned, the Dutch had little hope of winning through force. But they managed to hold out and make some small attacks, including burning the natives' fields to starve them out, and in the end they received decisive reinforcements from New Amsterdam. The war concluded July 15 1660, when the natives agreed to trade land for peace and food. The peace, however, was tentative at best. Tensions remained between the Esopus and the settlers, eventually leading to the second war. [cite book|title = Legends of the Shawangunk |author =Smith, Philip H.|year = 1887| chapter= The First Esopus War|publisher = Smith & Company | url=]

econd Esopus War

In the hope of making a treaty with the Esopus, Dutch emissaries contacted the tribe on June 5 1663, and requested a meeting. The natives replied that it was their custom to conduct peace talks unarmed and in the open, so the gates of Wiltwijck were kept open. The natives arrived on June 7 in great numbers, many claiming to be selling produce, thereby infiltrating deep into the town as scouts. By the time word arrived that Esopus warriors had completely destroyed the neighboring village of Nieu Dorp (modern day Hurley), [cite web | author=Baker, David| title= A Brief History of Hurley| year=2006 | url=| accessdate=July 5 | accessyear=2006] the scouts were in place around the town and began their own attack. Well-armed and spread out, they took the Dutch by surprise and soon controlled much of the town, setting fire to houses and kidnapping women before they were finally driven out by a mob of settlers. [cite book|title = Legends of the Shawangunk |author =Smith, Philip H.|year = 1887| chapter= The Second Esopus War|publisher = Smith & Company | url=] The attackers escaped, and the Dutch repaired their fortifications. On June 16, Dutch soldiers transporting ammunition to the town were attacked on their way from Rondout Creek. The Esopus were again repelled. [cite book|title = Journal of the Second Esopus War|chapter=Massacre at the Esopus |author =Krieger, Martin |authorlink = Martin Cregier |year = 1663|publisher = Hudson River Valley Institute | url =]

Throughout July, Dutch forces reconnoitered the Esopus Kill. Unable to distinguish one tribe from another, they captured some traders from the Wappinger tribe, one of whom agreed to help the Dutch, giving them information about various native forces and alliances and serving as a guide in the field. In spite of his help, the Dutch were unable to make solid contact with the Esopus, who used guerilla tactics and could disappear easily into the woods. After several unproductive skirmishes, the Dutch managed to gain the help of the Mohawks, who served as guides, interpreters, and soldiers. By the end of July, the Dutch had received sufficient reinforcements to march for the Esopus stronghold in the mountains to the north. However, their ponderous equipment made progress slow, and the terrain was difficult. They realized they were still at a disadvantage, so rather than attacking the Esopus force, they resorted to the tactics of the first Esopus War and burned the surrounding fields in the hope of starving them out.

For the next month, scouting parties went out to set fire to the Esopus’ fields, but found little other combat. In early September, another Dutch force tried again to engage the Esopus on their territory, this time successfully. The battle ended with the death of the Esopus chief, Papequanaehen, as well as several other men, women, and children. The natives fled, and the Dutch, led by Captain Martin Cregier, [cite book |last=Otto |first=Paul |authorlink= |coauthors= |editor= |others= |title=The Dutch-Munsee Encounter in America: The Struggle for Sovereignty in the Hudson Valley |origdate= |origyear= |origmonth= |url= |format= |accessdate= |accessyear= |accessmonth= |edition= |series= |date= |year=2006 |month= |publisher=Berghahn Books |location= |language=English |isbn=1571816720 |oclc= |doi= |id= |pages=152 |chapter= |chapterurl= |quote= ] pillaged their fort before retreating, taking supplies and prisoners. This effectively ended the war, although the peace was uneasy.cite book|title= Journal of the Second Esopus War|chapter = Journal of the Esopus War 1663|author =Krieger, Martin|year = 1663|publisher = Hudson River Valley Institute | url =]


After the second war, the Dutch settlers remained suspicious of all Indians with whom they came into contact. Reports made to the Dutch government in New Amsterdam cite misgivings about the intentions of the Wappingers and even the Mohawks, who had helped the Dutch defeat the Esopus.cite book|title= Journal of the Second Esopus War |chapter = Journal of the Esopus War 1663|author =Krieger, Martin|year = 1663|publisher = Hudson River Valley Institute | url =]

Dutch prisoners taken captive by natives in the Second Esopus War were transported through regions no white man had yet seen. Upon their release, they described the land to the Dutch authorities, who set out to survey it. Some of this land was later sold to Huguenots, where they established the village of New Paltz.cite web | author=Smith, Jesse J.| title=Esopus Indian wars were 'the clash of cultures'| year=2005 | url=| accessdate=July 5 | accessyear=2006]

In September of 1664, all of New Netherland was surrendered to the British, who generally took a more patient and fair stance toward the natives. The boundaries of Indian territory were carefully established, the land taken for the crown was paid for, and the remainder of their land could no longer be taken without full payment and mutual agreement. The new treaty established safe passage for natives for trading, declared "that all past Injuryes are buryed and forgotten on both sides," promised equal punishment (execution) for settlers and Indians found guilty of murder, and paid traditional respects to the sachems and their people.cite web| author=Ulster County Clerk|title=Richard Nicolls Esopus Indian Treaty |date=2002|url=|accessdate=July 5 | accessyear=2006] Over the course of the next two decades, Esopus lands were bought up and the natives were peacefully but inexorably driven out, eventually taking refuge with the Mohawks north of the Shawangunk mountains. Today, some of their descendants live on the Stockbridge-Munsee reservation in Shawano County, Wisconsin as well as among the Munsee Delaware of Ontario, although it is theorized that many of them joined with the Ramapough Mountain Indians of New Jersey following the wars, [cite book|title = The Lenape — Archaeology, History, and Ethnography |author =Kraft, Herbert C.|year = 1986| page=241|publisher = New Jersey Historical Society | id = ISBN 0-911020-14-4] as some Wappingers had done after Kieft's War in 1643.

ee also

*List of conflicts in the United States


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