Published on January 20, 2011 by John
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Chainbreaker, painted by John Phillips, 1845
Chainbreaker (born between 1737 and 1760, died 1859), aka Governor Blacksnake and Tah-won-ne-ahs, was a Seneca warchief, who, along with other Iroquois leaders (most notably Joseph Brant), fought on the side of the British during the American Revolutionary War from 1777 to 1783, most notably at the Battle of Oriskany.
He was born near Seneca Lake in western New York. His birth date has been given variously from circa 1760 to as early as 1737 (as is claimed on his gravestone, which was erected 1930, though it also erroneously claims him to have been on the side of the Continental Army during the Revolution); since this would have made him 121 or 122 years old at the time of death, such an early date would seem to be implausible and no man has ever been verified to have lived that long. What is known is that he lived an exceptionally long life, and must have been at or near adulthood by the time he became a war chief.
After his work on behalf of the British in the Revolutionary War, he became reconciled to the outcome of the war and fought on the American side in the War of 1812. In later life, his political influence waned, as younger men of the Seneca assumed control.
Cornplanter was his uncle, and Handsome Lake his nephew. Blacksnake was a member of the Wolf Clan.
He died on the Allegany Reservation in Cattaraugus County, New York.