Col. Van Schaick

Despite their occupation of this land for thousands of years, this campaign scattered the Haudenosaunee and crippled the Confederacy. It opened Western NY to European settler occupation. George Washington acquired land in Western New York. New York State paid Colonel Van Schaick with 3,000 acres of land with Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca Nation territory in the Towns of Manlius, Fabius, Cincinnatus Ulysses and Hector.

Sign Text

Col. Van Schaick
Crossed Onondaga Creek Here on Way to Indian
Villages to the South, April 21, 1779

Problematic issues

The major issue here is that a lot of context is omitted making this seem quite innocent. Who is Col. Van Schaik? Why was he here crossing Onondaga Creek? Why was he going to the Indian Villages?

Col. Van Schaick's troops were sent ahead of the Sullivan & Clinton Expedition that was sent to destroy the Onondaga Nation. The Onondaga were the center of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and the Keepers of the Grand Council Fire. The Onondaga Nation and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy had decided to remain neutral in the conflict between the Colonies and England. The decision of their council leaders, however, did not prevent individuals from becoming involved in the conflict.

George Washington and the Continental Congress chose to send a force against the Confederacy anyway. There is debate and different perspectives on whether this was retaliation for previous events, such as a “raid” or “battle” at Cherry Valley.

Van Schaick's attacks on Indian Villages are often referred to as a “scorched Earth” campaign. The Onondaga were killed, raped, and driven from their homes. Their food stores, usually a 3 year supply, were destroyed and they were forced to escape for their lives to Fort Niagara near Buffalo. The harsh winter of 1779 caused the death of most of the refugees. This time is remembered with great sadness and pain to the Onondaga resulting in lasting generational trauma.


Colvin St. at Onondaga Creek


Indigenous Place Names for Site


Circumstances of Marker Placement

Erected by Syracuse Chapter, sons of the American Revolution, and the state of New York 1930

Additional Information

For additional references to these events and the Sesquicentennial celebrations of this period see markers "Col Van Schaick" & "Sullivan and Clinton" on this site.


Review Details

Researched by Sue Eiholzer, 2012

Marker List