The Battle of the Wiltwyck Stockade

The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record
Vol. xc Numbers 1, 2, 3
(January, April, & July 1959)

During the forenoon of June 7th, 1663, as Indians by twos and threes trickled through the gateways into the Wiltwyck stockade, apparently bent on peddling beans and other produce as usual, the people who were there thought little about it, though all but a score or so of the men had gone out to work in the lowland fields. There had been signs of Indian unrest, such as the shooting of a horse at the new village, but the local sachems had just been notified that Wooden-Leg himself would visit Esopus bringing presents in the near future, and the sachems had agreed to meet him, provided the meeting should be in an open field with both sides unarmed.

An hour before noon, several Nieuw Dorp settlers came riding wildly toward the mill gate and shouting that their village was being wiped out by the Indians. The heathen who had infiltrated the stockade and were scattered about the thirty or forty houses drew weapons from concealment and sprang upon any Christians who couldn’t get out of reach too quickly. The men they knocked on the head or shot down without mercy; the women and children they took captive, except two women "big with child," whom they slew. They broke into homes to get at the occupants and find cover from which to shoot down men coming to the rescue. Buildings to windward were set afire.

The stockade was pandemonium as men inside who had survived the sudden onslaught, "most of whom had neither guns nor side-arms," battled the savages with whatever weapons they could lay hand on, while "by degrees" men from the fields outside rushed in to aid. Lieutenant Hendrick Schoonmaker of the Burgher Guard streaked for home from the river gate, where he and Jacob Pietersen the miller had been standing, and "was severely wounded in his house by two shots," but evidently he saved himself and the others there. Captain Thomas Chambers managed to break through, though wounded on his way from his farm, and to issue commands "to secure the gates, to clear the cannon and to drive out the savages." After this fashion the Christians rallied and the heathen, "through God’s mercy," were "chased and put to flight." Thanks to a timely shift of the wind, fire fighters were able to limit the loss of houses to ten or twelve.

By nightfall, "69 efficient men, both qualified and unqualified," were guarding the palisades. Twelve men, including three soldiers who had happened to be at the guardhouse, had been killed and eight others had been wounded, one fatally; four women and three children had been struck down or burned alive; four women and six children were missing, among them the wife of surgeon Gysbert Van Imbroeck and the wife and child of Dominie Van Laer. Magdalena Dircks, veteran of three Indian wars, had not been caught napping, it seems. The baptism of her fifth child during the next month indicates that she had given birth to it at about the time of the massacre.

When, on the third day after the massacre, ten Wiltwyck burghers on horseback sallied to the Rondout, they found that it had not been attacked and several people from the Nieuw Dorp had taken refuge there. But this few and the few who had escaped to Wiltwyck, one of them wounded, were all that were left of the new village’s population. Three men had been murdered and one man, eight women and twenty-six children had been taken captive.

A relief force of forty-two soldiers under Sergeant Niessen arrived from Fort Amsterdam in a yacht three days later and had to fight its way from the landing with three cart loads of munitions and provisions, suffering casualties of one killed and six wounded. The main force, about thrice as large, commanded by Burgomaster Kregier of New Amsterdam, landed eighteen days later yet — on the 4th of July — and for three days a heavily guarded wagon train shuttled between the stockade and the yachts without being molested.

As fast as leads were developed, Kregier staged drives for resorts of the Esopus tribe, meanwhile angling through Mohawk emissaries for redemption of Christians held by the tribe. During the last days of July, guided by an escapee, Rachel de la Montagne, the surgeon’s wife, his grand expedition of 210 men captured the Indian fort up the Rondout valley (at Wawarsing) where she had been held; but the two cannon and two wagons had slowed progress so much that only one female Indian was trapped.

In early September, however, when Lieutenant Van Kouwenhoven, who was in a yacht off the Indian Danskamer (several miles above Newburgh) working with a Wappinger go-between on prisoner exchanges, had learned about a new fort the Esopus Indians were building, Captain Lieutenant Kregier induced a Wappinger to lead him to it and, taking a stream-lined force of 105 — 22 of his own Company, 74 of Lieutenant Stilwell’s English Company, 7 burghers and 2 Negro slaves — set out between spells of "great rain," crossed the raging Rondout Kill, followed its tributary the Wallkill up to its meeting with its Shawangunk branch, and then followed the branch. Shortly after noon, forty-eight hours from the start, the force reached the half-finished Indian stronghold (on the east side of the Shawangunk, about two miles south of Bruynswick), on which the Indians were busily at work. Moving "along the hill so as not to be seen and in order to come right under the fort," Kregier’s men charged for the palisades. When the chase was over, fifteen Indian warriors, including sachem Papequanaehen, lay dead on the field, along with seven of their women and children. "Probably many more were wounded." Thirteen had been taken captive; and twenty-three Christians had been released from captivity, thanks to the Mohawk who had visited the fort on the preceding day and laughed at the Esopus Indians for shepherding their captives to the hills each night. The Dutch losses in the fight were three killed and six wounded. So, having only eight horses with them, Kregier’s men had to destroy all but the choice items of loot that would "well fill a sloop" — guns, powder horns, bags of powder, skins, kettles and so forth.

Kregier, with his force doubled, revisited the site a week or so afterwards to devastate it more thoroughly. Thereafter, he made two or three raids on other sites. His contingent of Long Island Indians scoured the region, tracking down Esopus Indians. Lieutenant Van Kouwenhoven continued his prisoner-exchanging activities. In the course of two or three months, all except possibly one or two of the missing Christians were accounted for, and the Esopus tribe’s fragments were scattered among their neighbor tribes.


This site is provided for reference only. Except where specifically cited, information contained is conjecture and should not be considered as fact.
Home Index About Me