The Tioga Point Museum has acquired a rare surviving portrait painted by Woodhall, New York native Hamilton Irving Marlatt (1867-1929). The portrait is of Revolutionary War Maj. General John Sullivan (1740-1795).
Sullivan, a first generation American born in New Hampshire to Irish immigrants, had been a commander of the New Hampshire militia under its royal governor John Wentworth. Wentworth’s heavy-handedness when dealing with the state assembly drove Sullivan to attend the Second Continental Congress. Sullivan went on to participate in George Washington’s defense of New York, where he fought bravely but was ultimately captured. Sullivan also served capably at the battles of Trenton, Germantown, and Brandywine, though the latter two were losses for the revolutionaries. Sullivan had also constructed a temporary fort called Fort Sullivan in 1777 in the area now known as Tioga Point.
Sullivan is perhaps best known, though, for the Sullivan Expedition. In the summer of 1779 Washington ordered Sullivan to march with 3 brigades from Easton, PA to the Susquehanna River then north to the area known present day as Athens, PA. The purpose of this march was to wipe out Iroquois villages in response to their alliance with British forces. Sullivan and other commanders destroyed close to 40 Iroquois villages and devasted their agriculture and winter crop stores, breaking the Confederacy’s economic capabilities. Sullivan pushed his men hard, and the resulting loss of most of his horses just north of Elmira led to the area to be called “the Valley of Horses Heads” the namesake of modern day Horseheads. It’s estimated that thousands of Iroquois died in the subsequent months to starvation and exposure as a consequence of Sullivan’s Expedition.
Hamilton Irving Marlatt is best known for his landscapes, particularly of the American southwest. Marlatt also painted several watercolors and pastels of scenes from upstate New York, though few of his works survive.
Those wishing to learn more about Sullivan and the area’s involvement in the Revolutionary War can visit the museum on Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon to 8 p.m.