Gnadenhutten massacre

This post will be about a massacre that occurred during the American Revolutionary war, the Gnadenhutten massacre. The Gnadenhutten massacre is also known as the Moravian massacre and occurred in the village of Gnadenhutten. Gnadenhutten was a Moravian missionary village. The term Moravian means it is a Protestant denomination of Christianity from Moravia, currently in the Czech Republic today.

The actual massacre itself was perpetrated by the colonial American militia on 8th March 1782. This militia was from Pennsylvania. The victims were the Lenape tribe. The Lenape tribe traditionally come from the Delaware region of the United States and along the Atlantic coast. However by the eighteenth century many were displaced by the expansion of the Europeans heading westwards. This occurred increasingly at the time of the American revolutionary war and many settled in Ohio. However it should also be acknowledged that they also headed further west not only from this reason but also because of the threat of the neighbouring tribe the Iroquois. The Lenape and Iroquois did have frequent tensions.

Some of the Lenape converted to Christianity, the Moravian branch and some of them sided with the American colonials whilst others were against them. After a while some of the tribe returned to their original areas as they were hungry in order for harvest. However a raid party of frontiersmen from Pennsylvania under Colonial David Williamson wanted to raid this areas after they were left abandoned and to prevent them being used by war parties for the ongoing revolutionary war. Interestingly there was no official course of action that was ever authorised for this.

Eventually the frontiersmen reached Gnadenhutten on the 7th March. At first their arrival seemed innocent in the sense that they wished to protect the Christian Lenape tribe and remove them to safety to nearby Fort Pitt, a fort built by British Colonialists in Pennsylvania. However they were later found to be accused of taking part in raids in Pennsylvania. The Christian Lenape tribe were very passive and denied all charges held against them. In spite of this Williamson and his men attended a council in order to discuss the matter about whether or not the Christian Lenape tribe had been involved in raids. The penalty was death and the majority voted for it as punishment. The Lenape upon hearing this prayed to God and that they knew they would be with God the following day.

The following morning the militia brought and concentrated the Christian Lenape to a ‘killing house’. The women and men were slaughtered in different buildings whereas the infants and elderly were massacred. Their bodies were thrown into the abandoned mission buildings.

It is said that two Christian Lenape boys who were involved in this massacre, miraculously survived it and lived to tell the tale. Many Americans disapproved of this act, whereas some hailed the Pennsylvanian frontiersmen who did this as heroes at the time.

Today a 11m monument stands tall at the site where this brutal act occurred, commemorating all that had died next to a reconstructed mission house similar to the ones that were used in the Moravian villages. The monument was erected on 5th June 1872, one hundred years after stating:

“Here triumphed in death ninety Christian Indians, March 8, 1782”

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