Today’s General Clinton Canoe Regatta is named after a Revolutionary War event over 200 years ago that impacted the Susquehanna Valley. In 1778, the Upstate New York frontier was a place of many small skirmishes between Colonists and Native Americans who sided with the British. One of the worst was the Cherry Valley Massacre in the Mohawk Valley, where frontier homesteaders were victims of a surprise attack, and 30 people, mostly women and children, were killed. General George Washington the following year launched the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign to respond to these raids and totally cleanse the area of Native Americans, specifically the Iroquois. The interesting part of the campaign was how the Susquehanna River was managed for travel.
In August of 1779, a wooden dam was constructed at the head of Otsego Lake. One thousand soldiers had made their way from Canajoharie in the Mohawk Valley to the foot of the lake overland, under the direction of General James Clinton. The group constructed 220 bateaus (flat bottom boats) to move their supplies 160 miles down river to meet up with General Sullivan in Broome County. The plan was to dam the lake, allow the lake level to rise, and then break the dam to allow a good flow of water down the Susquehanna so the boats would be able to float more easily. The dam system proved successful, and the two parts of the campaign met up in Union, NY near Binghamton, a few weeks later. Along the way, the soldiers burned many Native American settlements, including some villages on an island south of Afton. The campaign destroyed the morale of the Iroquois, and the action was considered successful.
The General Clinton Canoe Regatta commemorates this 1779 […]