“Wherever your armies go, there we will go; you shall always find us by your side; and if providence calls us to sacrifice our Lives in the field of battle, we will fall where you fall, and lay our bones by yours. Nor shall peace ever be made between our nation and the Red-Coats until our brothers -the white people- lead the way.”
-Stockbridge Militia Company oath of allegiance to the American cause
The unit served with distinction in two iterations: first in the siege of Boston and the capture of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775, and second, as a reformed company in 1777 making significant contributions in the battles of Saratoga and Monmouth. The unit even earned the praise and respect of George Washington, who personally asked the company to assist Major General Sullivan in his expedition against the Iroquois. Daniel Nimham’s son Abraham became a Captain in the unit.
In a dramatic and unfortunate twist of fate, however, the unit’s success was to be short lived. On Aug. 31, 1778, while on a scouting expedition in what is today Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, Daniel Nimham and the Stockbridge were ambushed by not one but two of the British army’s most notorious units, the Queens Rangers and Tarleton’s Dragoons. Led by the infamous Captain Simcoe and the much feared Banastre Tarleton, respectively, the mounted Loyalist units surrounded and proceeded to cut down the Stockbridge Company with sabers. The Stockbridge put up a fierce defense which impressed the seasoned British officers. Simcoe commented that “the Indians fought most gallantly”, even “pulling more than one of the cavalry from their horses.” Tarleton was pulled off his horse and could have been easily killed if the Native American that had him in his clutches had a bayonet.
In the ferocious struggle that ensued, the overwhelming British force outnumbering the natives five to one, however, proved to be too much. Estimates suggest that the Stockbridge lost anywhere between 17 to 40 men, including Chief Nimham and his son. After wounding Captain Simcoe, Nimham was killed by Simcoe’s orderly, Private Edward Wight. However, before succumbing, Nimham had wounded Captain Simcoe and was reported by Simcoe to have said, that “he himself was old, and would die there.”
The results were devastating for the Stockbridge. The four Indians still left in military service a month later went home to their families. In a cruel development, the survivors of the Company and the families of those killed were denied lands promised to soldiers who had fought on the American side. Further, by 1784, those left in Stockbridge (mainly widows) had largely lost their land to land speculators and settlers using unscrupulous means…