Conotocaurius (Town Destroyer, Seneca: Hanödaga꞉nyas) was a nickname given to George Washington by Iroquois peoples in 1753. The name in its original language(s) has been given variously as Conotocarius, Conotocaurious, Caunotaucarius, Conotocarious, Hanodaganears, and Hanadahguyus. It has also been 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 nickname had previously been given to his great-grandfather John Washington in the late seventeenth century. He had participated in an effort to suppress Indigenous peoples defending themselves in Virginia and Maryland. It involved members of both the Susquehannah and the Piscataway, an Algonquian tribe that lived across the Potomac River from Mount Vernon. Following the massacre of five chiefs who had come out to negotiate under a flag of truce to the colonizers, 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 they met his great-grandson in 1753 they called George Washington by the same name, Conotocarious.[2][3]

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

Recommend me kindly to our good friend Monacatootha, and others; tell them how happy it would make Conotocaurious 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. "[4][5]

In 1779 during the American Revolutionary War, the Sullivan Expedition, under Washington's orders,[6] destroyed over 40 Iroquois villages in New York, partially in response to Iroquois participation in attacks on the Wyoming Valley in July 1778 and Cherry Valley in November 1778.[7] In 1790, the Seneca chief Cornplanter told President Washington: "When your army entered the country of the Six Nations, we called you Town Destroyer and to this day when your name is heard our women look behind them and turn pale, and our children cling close to the necks of their mothers."[8][9]


  1. ^ Congdon, Charles Edwin; Deardorff, M.H. (1967). Allegany oxbow: a history of Allegany State Park and the Allegany Reserve of the Seneca Nation.
  2. ^ "Conotocarious." George Washington's Mount Vernon website, 2018.
  3. ^ Grizzard, Frank E. Jr. George Washington: A Biographical Companion, 2002. p. 53.
  4. ^ "From George Washington to Andrew Montour, 10 October 1755." Founders Online, National Archives and Records Administration.
  5. ^ Charles Augustus Hanna, 1911 The Wilderness Trail Vol I p. 236.
  6. ^ "From George Washington to Major General John Sullivan, 31 May 1779." Founders Online, National Archives and Records Administration.
  7. ^ Mintz, Max M. (1999). Seeds of Empire: The American Revolutionary Conquest of the Iroquois. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 9780814756225.
  8. ^ Pearsall, Sarah M. S. (May 2015). "Madam Sacho: How One Iroquois Woman Survived the American Revolution". Humanities. Vol. 36, no. 3. Retrieved January 2, 2021.
  9. ^ "Quotes". Onondaga Nation. 22 February 2014. Retrieved January 2, 2021.