John Deseronto

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Captain John Deseronto (alt. Deserontyon, (Odeserundiye) UE (c1740s - 1811) was a prominent Mohawk war chief during the American Revolutionary War. He was born in the 1740s, most likely in the Mohawk valley. Educated in a white school, he had become acculturated to white customs. In 1759, during the French and Indian War, he was at the Battle of Fort Niagara, and the following year he was at the Battle of Quebec. In the summer of 1764, he accompanied John Bradstreet when he went to Fort Detroit at the end of Pontiac's Rebellion.

American Revolution[edit]

When the American Revolution started Deseronto was a chief of the Mohawks, living at Fort Hunter where he owned a handsome house and 82 acres (330,000 m2) of rich flat land. He had a wagon, plough, harrow, and ten beaver traps.[1] During this war he sided with the British and the loyalist Johnson family. He accompanied Guy Johnson when he left for Canada in the summer of 1775. Deseronto went back to the Mohawk valley the following year and met with Sir John Johnson. In May 1776, he again met with John Johnson and helped him escape to Montreal.

In July 1777, he was the leader of a party which assessed the defences of Fort Stanwix. On 14 July, they surprised and attacked Ensign John Spoor's work detail as it was outside the fort cutting sod. Deseronto passed the information that the fort was strongly garrisoned back to Daniel Claus. Barry St. Leger decided to proceed without adequate artillery regardless. He took part in the siege and the Battle of Oriskany. After St. Leger had retreated, Deseronto stayed behind to enjoy a meal at St. Leger's table. A scouting party from the fort found Deseronto in St. Leger's tent and shot him with buck and ball in the left arm and breast.[2] Deseronto was seriously wounded and almost lost his arm. He continued to Fort Hunter where he set about preparing the village for a mass departure. On 4 September, he arrived at Burgoyne's camp with the Fort Hunter families and several prominent loyalists, totalling about 150 persons. The villagers had abandoned their homes after hearing about the sacking of the Upper Castle. The party had to fight through the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment to reach Burgoyne's camp. They killed seven of the Americans and Deseronto was freshly wounded. They settled at La Chine, near Montreal and were supplied by the British in exchange for the war service.

In 1779 he led two scouting parties up the Richelieu valley. In 1780, he took part in Sir John Johnson's raid on the Mohawk valley and he was at the Battle of Klock's Field. In 1781 he led multiple raids into the Mohawk valley destroying mills and cattle and taking prisoners. In the spring of 1782, Deseronto and Captain Isaac Hill destroyed the mill at Little Falls on the Mohawk and took some prisoners.[3]

After War Years[edit]

After the war, he and Joseph Brant met with Frederick Haldimand to discuss the loss of their land in New York. Haldimand promised to resettle the Mohawks near the Bay of Quinte, on the north east shore of Lake Ontario, in present day Ontario, Canada. Brant decided that he preferred to settle on the Grand River. Brant and Johnson ridiculed Deseronto's decision to stay at the Bay of Quinte. Haldimand purchased and granted the Mohawks a tract 12 by 13 miles (21 km) on the Bay of Quinte. About 200 Mohawks settled with him at what is now called the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Ontario. The Mohawks of the Lower Castle primarily settled at the Bay of Quinte, while those of the Upper Castle settled on the Grand River. Deseronto was personally granted a lump sum payment of about eight hundred pounds for his losses, 3,000 acres (12 km2) of land, and an annual pension of forty five pounds.

In 1797, Deseronto and Joseph Brant went to New York where, in exchange for a small sum, they agreed to extinguish Mohawk land claims within New York.

He died 7 January 1811 at the Mohawk settlement on the Bay of Quinte in Upper Canada.

Legacy[edit]

The town of Deseronto, Ontario is named in his honour.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Watt, pg. 273
  2. ^ Watt, pg. 253
  3. ^ Graymont, pg. 254

References[edit]