Wednesday, July 3, 2019

3 July 1778 The Wyoming Massacre

If you have ancestors that lived in North Eastern Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War, were they affected by the Battle of Wyoming, also known as the Wyoming Massacre?  Have you even heard of this battle?  When I think of ‘Wyoming’ I think of the 44th state, the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks, and Jackson Hole.  I didn’t realize until I was researching my maternal 5x great grandmother Eleanor Jacobs Coolbaugh (click on link to read her story) in Pennsylvania that long before the state of Wyoming became a state in 1890 there was a Wyoming Valley and ‘Wyoming County’ in Pennsylvania.

The battle, part of the Northern Theater 1778-1782,  was an encounter between the American Patriots and the Loyalists along with Iroquois raiders.  The British saw the patriots, about 360 soldiers, gathering in large numbers outside of Forty Fort.  The large numbers that were gathering led the Loyalists to begin the Battle of Wyoming. 

The Battle reportedly lasted about 45 minutes.  The  inexperienced militiamen were confused when an order was given to reform their lines of battle, panicked and began to run.  Some reports show about 60 Patriots managed to escape.   Almost all those that were captured by the Loyalists and Iroquois were tortured and killed.  Coronel Butler reported Indian allies had taken 227 scalps.  Estimates of about 340 Patriots were killed.   The British suffered the deaths of about 3 soldiers and about 8 wounded.  All those Patriots that were killed were buried in a common grave.  The Patriots surrendered the next day of Forty Fort.  This fort had become a refuge for displaced settlers during the Battle of Wyoming.  Read more about this battle at The Battle of Wyoming Valley (Massacre).

While researching Eleanor Jacobs Coolbaugh I came across the following hand written account (in the Ancestry online Strunk Family tree) about the battle, written down by Eliza's great-great-granddaughter, and believe the ‘baby’ was Eleanor who was a little over 2 years old at the time.  Her mother Elizabeth was also pregnant with Eleanor’s brother Samuel.     

“Eliza Pensil Jacobs made her escape from the Indians at the time of the Wyoming Massacre by walking on the old corn path from Newport (near Wilkes Barre) to Easton and carried her baby with her …”

What an amazing story of how my ancestor survived and kept her baby safe!  I am glad this story was handed down and has survived.  I am always thankful for these accounts that others have saved for telling the story of how directly involved our ancestors were in the historical events of their day.

Today there is a Wyoming Monument located at the site of a mass grave containing the bones of many of the victims of the battle and massacre. Commemorative ceremonies at the site of the massacre began in 1878, to mark the 100th anniversary with President Rutherford B. Hayes as the speaker.  Since then there is an annual program on the grounds sponsored by the Wyoming Commemorative Association. One hundred and seventy-eight names of Patriots killed in the battle are listed on the Wyoming Monument, and the names of about a dozen militia who were killed or died in captivity a day or so prior to the main battle. A possible explanation for the difference between the number of names on the monument (178) and the reported number of scalps taken in the battle (227) is that allegedly numerous civilians (perhaps as many as 200)—instead of surrendering to Colonel Butler—elected to flee and died of exposure in a swamp known as the "Shades of Death" after the battle.    See the website Durkees Men of Wyoming for the list of names of those killed on the memorial. 

If you have any corrections, additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.
Enjoy the journey,


  1. Hi Debbie. I descend from Daniel Gore, son of Obadiah Gore. Also, Jeremiah Shaw.

    1. Hi Diane. So hard to image what they must have gone through but so glad I know about it now.

  2. Daniel Gore's daughter Lydia married Benjamin Bailey. Lydia is my 5th gg-grandmother.(paternal side)

    1. Thank-you for sharing Diane. We come from a line of survivors.

  3. Debby,
    This is so beautifully presented; thank you; incidentally that hand written note that you obtained, on Strunk family tree, was originally entered on my Jacobs family tree, as I photo copied from the original paper passed on to me from my grandfather, Albert Jacobs, son of William S. Jacobs, son of William Jacobs, son of John Jacobs, Jr. son of John Jacobs (Rev War soldier) and husband of Elizabeth Pensel.
    John Jacobs

    1. Thank-you Jake for your comments! I can never thank-you enough,Jake, for all you have done to preserve and make this information available to all of us.