During the American Revolution many colonists, once devoutly loyal to the British Crown, shifted allegiances in an attempt to sever all ties with the British Empire and establish an independent nation-state, which was officially achieved as a result of the 1783 Peace of Paris. Euro-Americans, however, were not the only powers engaged militarily in North America during the Revolution. Despite tireless efforts to remain neutral during the war, many American Indian tribes, nations, and confederacies throughout North America chose to ally with either the British Crown or American revolutionaries and contribute to their side’s war effort. For Americans and British alike, Indian alliances were invaluable during the Revolution because of their effective guerilla tactics and overall military prowess on the battlefield.
On the Pennsylvania frontier, George Mason, from the American controlled Fort Pitt, and Henry Hamilton, from the British controlled Fort Detroit, struggled to forge a military alliance with the Delaware Indians. Just as loyalties varied among Americans and numerous Indian powers throughout North America, Delaware loyalties were by no means universal. Once united under an established chiefdom, factionalism and dissent among Delawares became prevalent during the Revolution. While Americans at Fort Pitt established a military alliance with the Delaware faction led by White Eyes, the British at Fort Detroit united with the opposing faction led by Wandahela. The White Eye faction chose to side with the American revolutionaries in an attempt to dissolve any hegemony the Iroquois Confederacy claimed over them and declare independence from all neighboring powers. Wandahela’s faction, on the other hand, allied with the British because their military presence on the frontier was the only safeguard from continuous Anglo-American settlement onto their lands. As the Revolution entered its later stages, most Delawares conformed to Wandahela’s faction.
The Delaware, like American revolutionaries and loyalists, chose a side that, in their calculations, would increase their chances to achieve certain ends, which included retaining their lands and achieving autonomy. Although most Delawares, by revolution’s end, chose to ally with the side that lost the Revolutionary War, their presence in the region between Pittsburgh and Detroit, and their militarily effectiveness made them a focal point for both American and British diplomats. Moreover, the Delaware, like American revolutionaries, rebelled against those who threatened their liberties and independence. Unlike Americans, however, the Delaware lost a considerable amount of independence following the Revolution.
See Colin Calloway’s The American Revolution in Indian Country.