The scene of the action
between the Queen's Rangers and the Stockbridges was Van Cortlandt Manor, a large estate situated between Broadway and the Bronx River.
Midway between the manor house and the river was Mile Square Road, connecting the Albany
Post Road (Broadway) with the small hamlet of Mile
Square in Westchester County. Almost all of the ground on which the battle between the Stockbridges and Queen's
Rangers was fought is now preserved within Van Cortlandt Park. The lane described in Simcoe's account is still there, linking the old Mile Square road with a residential neighborhood just north of the park. The fields and
forests of the battle are now covered by some playing fields, but mostly with luxuriant forest.
31st, Simcoe implemented his planned revenge. Moving forward from the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx in the early morning with five hundred men from several units, Simcoe hoped to entice the Americans forward
down Mile Square Road from their positions. At the same time, he would divide his own forces in an effort to envelop and trap
the Americans. Emmerick's Corps was to take up a position westerly of Tibbet's Brook and Mile Square Road near the residence
of a Frederick De Voe, while the Queen's Rangers moved up along the Bronx
River; both units were hidden from the Americans by the natural fall
of the land.
With his troops into position by 10 a.m., Simcoe continues his narrative:
unfortunately mistook the nearer house - Daniel DeVoe's - for one at a greater distance, the names being the same, and there
posted himself, and sent from thence a patrole forward upon the road, before Lieut.-Col. Simcoe could have time to stop it.
This patrole had no bad effect, not meeting with an enemy; had a single man of it deserted, or been taken, the whole attempt probably had been abortive. Lieut.-Col. Simcoe, who was
halfway up a tree, on the top of which was a drummer boy, saw a flanking party of the enemy approach. The troops had scarcely
fallen into their ranks when a smart firing was heard from the Indians, who had lined the fences of the [Mile Square] road, and were exchanging shot with Lieut.-Col. Emmerick, whom they had
discovered. The Queen's Rangers moved rapidly to gain the heights, and Lieut.-Col. Tarleton immediately advanced with the
Hussars and the Legion cavalry; not being able to pass the [stone] fences in his front, he made a circuit to return upon their
right, which being reported to Lieut.-Col. Simcoe, he broke from the column of the Rangers, with the Grenadier Company, and
directed Major Ross to conduct the Corps to the heights, advanced to the road, and arrived without being perceived within
ten yards of the Indians, who had been intent upon the attack of Emmerick's Corps and the Legion. The Indians now gave a yell, and fired upon the Grenadier Company, wounding four of them and Lieut.-Col
Simcoe. They were driven from the fences, and Lieut.Col. Tarleton with the Cavalry got among them and pursued them rapidly
down Cortlandt's ridge; that active officer had a narrow escape; in striking at one of the fugitives he lost his balance and
fell from his horse. Luckily the Indian had no bayonet and his musket had been discharged.
fought most gallantly; they pulled more than one of the Cavalry from their horses. French, an active youth, bugle-hoary to
the Huzzars, struck at an Indian, but missed his blow; the man dragged him from his horse, and was searching for his knife
to stab him, when loosening French's hand he luckily drew out a pocket pistol and shot the Indian through the head, in which
situation he was found.
While the Stockbridges were engaged with the main force of enemy troops,
the American light infantry were positioned to the north and west of Mile Square Road. As the fighting started and the British
cavalry caught the Indians off guard from their rear flank, the American infantry took off. One account of the battle states
that there were sixty light infantry and forty-eight Stockbridge Indians; the American forces were outnumbered nearly five
to one. Simcoe's map of the battle clearly shows that the light infantry units were cut off from the main fighting along Mile Square Road and were obliged to retreat.
During the action, just as Simcoe's men hit the left flank of the Indians,
Daniel Nimham was the one to wound the British officer. With enemy troops at their front and rear, the old chief called out
to his men to retreat, but shouted 'I am old, and can die here'" He was then shot by Simcoe's orderly. Nimham, sachem of the
Wappingers and a leader of the Stockbridges, who had once visited the King of England in
1766 to try to stop the land frauds being committed upon his people, crawled off of the battlefield towards a stream where
his body was later found.
The Indians ran through the open fields bordering the road, where they
were chased down by the cavalry and hit in the flank by infantry. Overwhelmed, the Indians refused to surrender, and few received
quarter from the green-jacketed enemy. The Mohican warriors fought with a determination perhaps unmatched during the war;
they leaped onto horses and dragged off the riders; tomahawks and knives had to suffice because there was no time to reload
their muskets. Banastre Tarleton, who would later become the scourge of the southern theater of the war, would have been killed
but for the lack of a bayonet on the musket of his Indian assailant.
Captain Johann von Ewald, of the Hessian jagers attached to Simcoe’s
force for the day, stated in his diary that the Indians fought with great ferocity and animation. Due to the wooded nature of the land, the Indians established several pockets of fierce resistance which
were overcome only by the shear weight of numbers of the attackers.
By seven in the evening, it was all over. Some of the Indians did escape
over Tibbetts Brook and hid among the rocks and boulders. Unable to scale the rocks, the British horse soldiers called out
for the fugitives to surrender, promising them their lives. According to one account, three Indians ventured out and gave
themselves up, whereupon the British killed them. The site of this alleged atrocity is known as Indian Bridge, although its actual location
is not certain.
Two miles away, at Philipe’s house on the Sawmill, General Scott
at 5:50 p.m. wrote a hasty message to Washington about the
Steward with a partie of about forty, and Capt Nimham with About the Same number parted at Volentines [Valentine’s]
hill and appointed to meet at the forks of a road near the Enemy’s Picquet, but before or rather About their Meeting
they saw a partie of horse In front. after exchanging a fuw Shot the Horse Gave
way. the Indians pursued when they was led Into an ambusade serounded by a large
body of Horse and foot, as was also the Majrs partie. there are not
more than fourteen Indians yet com in. among the missing is Capt Nimham
his father and the whole of the officers of that Corps, Majr Steward tells me that he Misses a Capt [a] Sub[altern]
& About twenty men from his parties. I am in hopes that it is not so bad
as it Presant appears But I cant promise myself that it will be much Short of it.
As the dead and wounded lay on the battlefield, von Ewald surveyed the
scene. Walking amongst the carnage, he took special note of the Indian warriors who had fought so bravely.
was a shirt of coarse linen down to the knees, long trousers also of linen down to the feet, on which they wore shoes of deerskin,
and the head was covered with a hat made of bast. Their weapons were a rifle or a musket, a quiver with some twenty arrows,
and a short battle-axe which they know how to throw very skillfully. Through the nose and in the ears they wore rings, and
on their heads only the hair of the crown remained standing in a circle the size of a dollar-piece, the remainder being shaved
off bare. They pull out with pincers all the hairs of the beard, as well as those on all other parts of the body.
As to the casualties of the battle, the British reported some thirty
seven to forty Indians and a small number of other rebel soldiers killed or desperately wounded, and ten prisoners taken.
Four British soldiers were reported killed, and three wounded, including Simcoe, although a Hessian officer reported as many
as forty English dead. Although known as the Stockbridge Indian Massacre,
and it was to be sure, most of the dead were other native warriors from New England, possibly from the Oneida as well. For the small community of Stockbridge,
it was a catastrophe. Chief Nimham was dead, along with his son Abraham and thirteen
other men. Of the approximately seventeen reported Stockbridge Indians killed
during the war, at least fourteen of them fell in the Bronx.