This Day in History: The Royalton Raid in Vermont
On this day in 1780, the Royalton Raid takes place in present-day Vermont. The raid was conducted by just under 300 Indians operating under the command of British Lt. Richard Houghton. It was the last Indian raid to occur in New England.
One Vermont historian describes the reasons for the raid: “[It] would serve the British purpose of terrorizing the frontier, and destroying housing and food supplies, thus driving inhabitants back toward the seaboard . . . . [It] would give the British Indian allies an opportunity to take captives and plunder; and it would show that northern New England, a likely route for another U.S. invasion of Canada, was not safe from the British war machine . . . .”
The surprise attack began early in the morning on October 16. The raiding party attacked homes, burned buildings and fields, and slaughtered cattle, sheep, and pigs. Some of the area’s residents were killed, but more were taken prisoner.
A few weeks later, George Washington received reports on these events. A letter from Jacob Bayley noted that “Royalton was laid in Ashes the 16th—Consisting of about Thirty Families 27 taken Prisoners, Four Killed, the Women and Children unhurt.” A second letter described the “damage they have done in destruction of grain, forage and cattle.” The quantity destroyed “is more than would have been sufficient to have supported such party one year, as would be necessary for our defence.”
The damage was massive! And still there were a few unsung heroes who helped their neighbors on this dreadful day.
One man, Phineas Parkhurst, made a Paul Revere-like ride. He successfully warned some families, giving them time to escape. He also received a gunshot to his abdomen in the process! That wound didn’t stop him from continuing his ride. Can you believe that he even lived to tell the tale!?
Another brave woman, Hannah Hardy, managed to save several young boys (including her own son). Reportedly, she pursued the Indians and found them at a temporary camp on their way to Canada. She found Houghton and convinced him that the young children would not survive the long trek to Canada. Rather than have the blood of these boys on his hands, Houghton let them return with Hardy. A monument has since been erected in Hardy’s honor in Vermont.
Unfortunately, the remaining captives were taken to Canada and sold. It took a few years, but many of them eventually got away or were ransomed out of captivity.
In short, today is a day in which we can remember more sacrifices (and more unsung heroes!) that too often go unnoticed in our classrooms.
Ivah Dunklee, Burning of Royalton, Vermont: By Indians (Classic Reprint; 2015)
Keith A. Erekson, The Joseph Smith Memorial Monument and Royalton’s “Mormon Affair”: Religion, Community, Memory, and Politics in Progressive Vermont (Vermont Historical Society)
Letter from Joseph Marsh to George Washington (November 3, 1780)
Letter from Peter Olcott to George Washington (December 11, 1780)
Letter from Jacob Bayley to George Washington (October 28, 1780)
Neil Goodwin, The Narrative of the Captive, George Avery, 1780–1782 (Vermont Historical Society)
Neil Goodwin, We Go As Captives: The Royalton Raid and the Shadow War on the Revolutionary Frontier (2010)
Zadock Steele, The Indian captive; or, A narrative of the captivity and sufferings of Zadock Steele (1818)