Forty Fort

Forty Fort

Other names:

Col. Nathan capitulated on 7/4/1778 following Wyoming Massacre

Where: 41.278966, -75.872119 Forty Fort

Maps: [map notes]


  • Forty Fort historical marker
    Named for the forty Connecticut settlers of 1769. Begun in 1770. The Wyoming Massacre followed its surrender* to Maj. Butler's force of British, Tories, and Indians, July 4, 1779.
    41.28523 -75.87317
    Erected 1947 by Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.
    * NOTE: This is the only place found to date that says that massacre occurred after the surrender of the fort.

  • Forty Fort
    Construction on the fort began in 1770 but was still not fit for defense in 1772-1773. In 1777 it was rebuilt so as to occupy almost an acre and strengthened with a sharpened upright log palisade. The palisade was two logs deep and 12' high with buildings built along the walls that provided a platform for troops on the roofs. The fort plan was rectangular with small guard towers at each corner. A nearby spring provided access to water via a covered passageway.

    In June 1777 a large British and Indian force approached the fort coming down the Wyoming Valley. The fort defenders chose to advance outside the fort and attack the oncoming force, not knowing that there were some 1100 of the enemy in that force. After some initial success in driving back the attackers the defenders were caught in an open field and outflanked by some 700 Indians. The defenders fell back to the fort but some 300 were killed or captured. The fort was forced to surrender the following day. The battle came to be known as the "Wyoming Massacre".

  • Battle of Wyoming historical marker
    Nearby on July 3, 1778, 300 American militia under Col. Zebulon Butler were defeated by 1100 British, Tories, and Indians with Maj. Gen. John Butler. Captives were massacred; survivors fled to Forty Fort.
    Erected 1952 by Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

  • Wiki Battle of Wyoming
    On July 3, the British saw that the defenders were gathering in great numbers outside of Forty Fort. William Caldwell was destroying Jenkin's fort, and when the Americans were still a mile away Butler set up an ambush and directed that Fort Wintermute be set on fire. The Americans, thinking this was a retreat, advanced rapidly. Butler instructed the Seneca to lie flat on the ground to avoid observation. The Americans advanced to within one hundred yards of the rangers and fired three times. The Seneca came out of their positions, fired a volley, and attacked the Americans in close combat.

    Accounts indicate that the moment of contact was followed by a sharp battle lasting about 45 minutes. An order to reposition the Patriot line turned into a frantic rout when the inexperienced Patriot militia panicked. This ended the battle and triggered the Iroquois hunt for survivors. Only sixty of the Americans managed to escape, and only five were taken prisoner. Some of the victorious Loyalists and Iroquois killed and tortured an unknown number of prisoners and fleeing soldiers. Butler reported that 227 American scalps were taken.[6]

    Colonel Dennison surrendered Forty Fort and two other forts along with the remaining soldiers the next morning. The Americans were paroled with the condition that they not engage in hostilities for the remainder of the war. These soldiers were not harmed. Colonel Dennison and the militia did not honor the terms of their parole, and they were under arms within the year and participated in later attacks on Iroquois villages.

    There was no substantial killing of non-combatants and almost no inhabitants were injured or molested after the surrender.[7] Colonel Butler wrote : "But what gives me the sincerest satisfaction is that I can, with great truth, assure you that in the destruction of the settlement not a single person was hurt except such as were in arms, to these, in truth, the Indians gave no quarter."

    [6] Cruikshank, Ernest (1893). Butler's Rangers and the Settlement of Niagara. p.47
    [7] Graymont, Barbara (1972). The Iroquois in the American Revolution. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press. ISBN 0-8156-0083-6, p.172.

  • Acme Map showing Forty Fort at the left at bend of the river and with the 3 Wyoming Massacre locations to the northeast.

  • RevWar75 RevWar75
  • July 1778 listing. 7/3 - 4/1778 Wyoming Valley "Massacre. Shown as American defeat.
  • April 1779 listing. 4/19/1779 Wyoming Valley. Shown as draw.

    Related locations:
    Wyoming Massacre