Brant Venables


On 29 August 1779, Loyalist soldiers and Native American warriors fought against overwhelming numbers of invading Continental forces in the Battle of Newtown. After Newtown, the Continental forces destroyed 40 Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) towns. In 1879, Newtown Battlefield, near present-day Elmira, New York, was transformed into a heritage landscape memorializing the victors and the early expansion of the United States. To analyze the changing rituals of memorialization from 1879 to 2012, I examined monuments, interpretive signage, and primary-source documents, such as speech transcripts and newspaper accounts. I concluded that the rituals of memorialization at Newtown reflected the U.S. national attitudes and expectations of each era, initially silencing and gradually acknowledging British, Canadian, and Native American perspectives. This evolution eventually began to balance the portrayals of the North Americans who took part in the battle: the Continental forces and the Crown forces of Haudenosaunee, Delaware Indians, and Loyalists.