One might first think that the “forgotten allies” of this book on the American Revolution refers to the French; in fact, it is the Oneida Indian Nation. These are not the Oneida Community of the 19th century for whom some types of china and other dinnerware were named for, but one of the six Indian nations forming the Iroquois Confederation in upper New York (the other five are the Mohawk, the Seneca, the Cayuga, the Onondaga, and the Tuscarora). The Oneidas were usually the nation among the six that urged ways for peace and understanding between the Iroquois and the British and, later, the Americans.
Joseph Glatthaar and James Martin present the story of the Oneidas’ early days and how they joined the other six Iroquois nations with the British against the French and their Indian supporters during the French and Indian War and during other wars between the two great powers. The authors detail how the British treated the Oneidas and the other five nations through Indian agents and such.
When the colonists of the thirteen colonies began to rebel against the British, the Oneidas urged the other five Iroquois nations to take a neutral stance to prevent becoming involved with the conflict. This stance was at first accepted by the Iroquois, but it quickly proved to be hard to keep all Iroquois in adherence. Many helped the British against the Americans, while the Oneidas and their close friends the Tuscaroras maintained neutrality; the other four did not. Most of the Oneidas and Tuscaroras were more supportive of the Americans than of the British, eventually causing a split in the Iroquois Confederation.
Neutrality and keeping the peace did not last long, and the individual Iroquois nations chose which side they would support. Most of the Oneidas and the Tuscaroras joined the American cause, even joined the American army, their warriors serving in the Continental Army of George Washington and his generals as scouts or as part of units, for which they suffered at the hands of their Iroquois brothers and sisters and the British.
After the war, American treaties promised that the new nation would always be a friend to the Oneidas since they gave so much for the cause. Unfortunately, this promise and the memory of their aid during the Revolution slid away. The state of New York and land speculators began to trick and use all methods both legal and otherwise to obtain the lands of the Oneidas and move their people to Wisconsin and elsewhere. This is where the title Forgotten Allies comes from, and it is a sad period in American - and especially New York - history.
In addition to their well-researched account of this sad story of betrayal, the authors provide endnotes, a bibliography, black-and-white pictures, and maps. General readers interested in the American Revolution, American Indians, New York history and the Oneidas will enjoy this highly recommended title.
Joseph T. Glatthaar is the author of The Civil War’s Black Soldiers (1996), Partners in Command (1993), Forged in Battle (1989), The March to the Sea and Beyond (1985), and other books. James Kirby Martin is the author of Ordinary Courage (1999), and co-authored America and Its People, a two-volume American history textbook that has been published in several editions, A Concise History of America and Its People (1997), and other books.