Iroquois inline
Click to view an interactive web map.

In an earlier post, I described using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to facilitate my research to trace Isaac Frye’s path through the American Revolutionary War. Occasionally using GIS produced more than just a map; it produced new historical insight. One such instance occurred while researching Sullivan’s Expedition, or as it is sometimes called, the Iroquois Expedition.

In 1779, Congress and General Washington sent 6,500 Continental soldiers on a punitive, scorched earth mission to remove the threat of the Iroquois from the western borders of the United States. Included on that expedition was a surveyor, Lieutenant Benjamin Lodge, who mapped the route of the Army. Many of the men kept journals, which along with replicas of Lodge’s surveys were later published by the State of New York.

As I used these resources to create my base map, an unexpected picture came into focus in Iroquois territory. My GIS mapping work started with finding all the maps of that region published between 1775 (or earlier) and 1784.  Normally that provided me with a set of geographic and cultural features where each additional map corroborated the existence and representation of each place.  In the case of Sullivan’s Expedition, which ventured into wilderness, it was more like putting a puzzle together. Each map had several trails and settlements that none of the others showed.

Coming into focus was a network of trails, rather than collection of unrelated trails known by each map’s surveyor, engraver or publisher.

Seeing these trails as a network is significant. A network explained the rapid communication between settlements that has been written about, by contemporaries and historians. With a network of trails it is plausible to understand how runners, perhaps managed similarly to the Pony Express riders, could spread the word and effectively enable meetings to be called for and convened in only three days time.

Below are a listing of the most important sources for the map and trails network.


Chesnoy, Michel, Capitaine, 1779, Carte du théatre de la guerre dans l’Amérique Septentrionale, pendant les années 1775, 76, 77 et 78 : où se trouvent les principaux camps avec les différentes places et époques des batailles qui sont données pendant ces campagnes, Paris. See this reference.

Cook, Frederick (Secretary of State of New York), 1887, “Journals of the Military Expedition of Major General John Sullivan Against the Six Nations of Indians in 1779 with Records of Centennial Celebrations” Knapp, Peck & Thompson Printers, Auburn, NY. See Full Text.

Donehoo, George P., 1928, How to Spell Pittsburgh — Diondega, Carnegie Library of Pittsburg, Pittsburg, PA. See Full Text.

Jefferys, Thomas, 1776, A Map Of Pennsylvania Exhibiting not only The Improved Parts of that Province, but also Its Extensive Frontiers: Laid down From Actual Surveys, and Chiefly From The Late Map of W. Scull Published in 1770; And Humbly Inscribed To The Honourable Thomas Penn And Richard Penn Esquires True And Absolute Proprietaries & Governors Of The Province Of Pennsylvania and the Territories thereunto belonging. W. Scull, London.  See this reference.

Johnson, Guy, 1771, Map of the Country of the VI Nations, Unknown Publisher, Location Unknown. See this reference.

Sayer, Robert and Bennett, John, 1776, A map of the middle British colonies in North America. First published by Lewis Evans, of Philadelphia, in 1755; and since corrected and improved, R. Sayer & J. Bennett, map, chart & printsellers, London. See this reference.

Sauthier, Claude Joseph and Ratzer, Bernard, 1776, A map of the Province of New-York, reduc’d from the large drawing of that Province, compiled from actual surveys by order of His Excellency William Tryon, Esqr. Captain General & Governor of the same, Faden, William, London. See this reference.

Scull, Nicholas and Turner, James, 1770, To the Honourable Thomas Penn and Richard Penn, Esqrs., true & absolute proprietaries & Governours of the Province of Pennsylvania & counties of New-Castle, Kent & Sussex on Delaware this map of the improved part of the Province of Pennsylvania, John Davis, Printer, Philadelphia. See this reference.

Watt, Gavin K., 2002, Rebellion in the Mohawk Valleu, Dundurn Press, Tonawanda, NY. See this reference.

2 thoughts on “Iroquois Network has Complete Coverage

  1. Thank you for this post – it is very interesting. We’ve seen GIS used before for Battlefield Archaeology projects at Binghamton University (SUNY Binghamton), but not quite like you’ve got here.

    We’ve also seen and shared portions of a number of the maps that you reference on our SAR Binghamton Chapter Facebook page. These maps always go over well.

    Another interesting map (albeit not a contemporary one) is contained in the book “Indian Paths of Pennsylvania” by Paul A. W. Wallace, published by The Historical Society of Pennsylvania 20 years after the author’s death. The NEHGS blog “Vita Brevis” referenced this book in a posting last summer & our SAR Facebook page shared that post here:

    Wallace published a precursor article to his book in the Society’s journal “The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography”. which is available online at:

    The article contains the map (split across several pages) and some extensive discussion about it.

    Perhaps you’ve already seen this, but if you haven’t, it’s also worth a look.


  2. Very nice–I had not seen Wallace’s work, and the maps are amazing. I have seen a few modern representations of some of those trails (for instance along the shore of Lake Erie), but nothing was cited. Thank you very much for sharing this.


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