During the American Revolution, Samuel Kirkland sympathized with the rebels, serving as a chaplain to the Continental Army. Loyalists sought to discredit him with the Oneidas, to whom Kirkland served as a missionary before the war, but they didn’t buy it.
In July of 1775, the Second Continental Congress paid him $300 to work as a diplomat to ensure the neutrality of the Iroquois Confederacy.
The British managed to rally most of the Six Nations to the side of the crown, but not the Oneidas. Oneida Chief Skenandoa had a close friendship with Kirkland and guided the Oneidas to the side of the colonists.
The highlight of their alliance could be seen at Oriskany in August of 1777, where the Oneidas battled other members of the Iroquois.
After America gained independence, Kirkland sought to set up a school that would integrate education for the Indian and non-Indian communities.
In 1793, the state of New York granted him a charter for the Hamilton-Oneida Academy, a boys’ school in Clinton that in 1812 would become Hamilton College.
The latter years of his life were not pleasant, including poor health and the withdrawal of support of his missionary work by his religious society.
Samuel Kirkland died in February of 1808. He’s buried in the cemetery of the college he founded — and his dear friend, Oneida Chief Skenandoa, is buried right next to him.