Originally inhabiting the Delaware Valley and known as the Lenape Indians, the Delaware had been pushed into western Pennsylvania and present-day Ohio by the time of the Revolutionary War (1775-83). Each of the tribe's three major divisions spoke a somewhat different dialect of the Eastern Algonquian language. Calling themselves the Lenape, they had earned a reputation as intertribal diplomats and were called "grandfathers" by most of their neighbors.
Although spread out and often living among other groups of Native Americans, the Delaware played a central role in the frontier warfare of the late 18th century. During the French and Indian War (1754-63), the Delaware under Teedyuscung spread terror in the Susquehanna Valley of Pennsylvania before agreeing to a peace in 1757. The Delaware further west, in part inspired by Neolin, joined in Pontiac's War (1763-65). The tribe was divided during the Revolutionary War. Some Delaware agreed to fight against the British after attending councils with U.S. representatives at Fort Pitt in 1775 and 1776. A treaty signed in 1778 allowed Revolutionary troops to march through Delaware territory and called for forts to protect Delaware villages. At the main Delaware town of Coshocton, on the Muskingum River, a faction led by George White Eyes and John Killbuck, Jr., declared its support for the United States; another faction, led by Captain Pipe, supported the British. After White Eyes died under suspicious circumstances--many Delaware believed he was murdered by Revolutionary militia--more Delaware favored the British. Aware of the growing pro-British sentiment, a detachment under General Daniel Brodhead burned Coshocton in 1780. Delaware who still supported the Revolutionaries sought refuge at Fort Pitt, while most others fled to join Captain Pipe's band.
Christian converts among the Delaware also suffered. The British and their Native American allies forced Delaware and other Indians at the Moravian town of Gnadenhutten to abandon the settlement in 1781. Short of food, however, a group of the Moravian converts returned to Gnadenhutten only to be assailed by Revolutionary militia. The pacifist Christians offered no resistance, and 96 people were killed in the Gnadenhutten massacre. Outraged by repeated assaults on their villages, the Delaware joined the Shawnee and routed an expedition by Pennsylvania militia at the Battle of Sandusky (June 4-5, 1782). After the Treaty of Paris (1783), many Delaware remained hostile to the United States, fought in the campaigns that defeated Josiah Harmar and Arthur St. Clair in the 1790s, and joined in the pan-Indian movement led by Tecumseh in the early 19th century.
1) Earl P. Olmstead, Blackcoats among the Delaware: David Zeisberger on the Ohio Frontier (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1991)
2) Amy C. Schutt, Peoples of the River Valleys: The Odyssey of the Delaware Indians (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007)
3) C. A. Weslager, The Delaware Indians: A History (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1972)
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