Town Destroyer

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Conotocaurious (Town Destroyer) was a nickname given to George Washington by Iroquois Native Americans in 1753. The name in its original language(s) has been given variously as "Caunotaucarius", "Conotocarious", "Hanodaganears", and "Hanadahguyus." It is translated as "Town Taker", "Burner of Towns", "Devourer of Villages", or "he destroys the town".[1]


Washington was given the name in 1753 by the Seneca leader Tanacharison (the "Half-King").

Washington was given a nickname by The Half-King that hearkened back to one of Washington's forebearers. In the late seventeenth century, Washington's great-grandfather John Washington participated in an effort to suppress a Native American uprising in Virginia and Maryland that involved members of both the Susquehannah and the Piscataway, an Algonquian tribe that lived across the Potomac River from Mount Vernon. Following a massacre when five chiefs who had come out to negotiate under a flag of truce were murdered by colonists, the Susquehannahs gave John Washington an Algonquian name that translated to "town taker" or "devourer of villages." The elder Washington's reputation was remembered and when the Native Americans met his great-grandson in 1753 they called George Washington by the same name, Conotocarious[2]

Washington indeed referred to himself as "Conotocaurious" in a letter he wrote to Andrew Montour dated October 10, 1755, in which he entreated the Oneida to resettle on the Potomac:

Recommend me kindly to our good friend Monacatootha, and others; tell them how happy it would make Conocotarious to have an opportunity of taking them by the hand at Fort Cumberland, and how glad he would be to treat them as brothers of our Great King beyond the waters.[3]

Washington in 1779 ordered the Sullivan Expedition in the American Revolutionary War, which destroyed at least 40 Iroquois villages in New York, from which the tribe had attacked American settlements. In 1790, the Seneca chief Cornplanter told President Washington: "When your army entered the country of the Six Nations, we called you Town Destroyer."


  1. Congdon, Charles Edwin; Deardorff, M.H. (1967). Allegany oxbow: a history of Allegany State Park and the Allegany Reserve of the Seneca Nation.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Charles Augustus Hanna, 1911 The Wilderness Trail Vol I p. 236.