The Peach Tree War was launched by the Native American Susquehannock Nation against the Dutch settlement of the New Netherland. The Susquehannock were allied with the Swedish colonists while the Dutch supported other Native American tribes.
The war was small-scale and brief. It was not a war in the conventional terms – it lasted only one day. And it was not fought like a conventional war either. Susquehannock warriors attacked the settlements and farms in New Netherland. There were very few casualties as the Dutch soldiers were not present to defend.
Unlike other wars of the period which stretched over days, months or even years and decades, Peach Tree War was fought on a single day. It took place on September 15, 1655.
The main cause of the war was the Dutch conquest of New Sweden. New Sweden was a Swedish colony and settlement that was situated at some distance from the Dutch New Netherland. New Sweden colonists supported the Susquehannock people and traded with them.
The Susquehannock also considered them their allies and trade partners. The Dutch competed with New Sweden and considered the Swedish colony a rival. So they attacked New Sweden in 1655 and conquered it. This angered the Susquehannock who retaliated by attacking New Netherland.
There is an interesting story behind the name of this war. When Susquehannock attacked New Netherland, the Dutch didn’t understand why they had been attacked. Before the war took place, a Native American woman had been killed by a Dutch settler for stealing a peach from his orchard. The Dutch thought that the Susquehannock probably took offense over this incident and this is why they had attacked. For this reason, the Dutch initially named it the Peach Tree War. The name stuck.
Little actual fighting took place during the war. The war mostly comprised of pillaging and looting by the Susquehannock warriors as they marched through small farms, settlements and towns of New Netherland. In the end, the Susquehannock took 150 Dutch settlers as hostages. Once they had retreated, the Dutch reached out to them and negotiated the safe return of these hostages.
The Dutch realized that spreading the settlements too far made them vulnerable to attacks. They decided to reduce the number of settlements in Netherland and defend them better. To this purpose, they established blockhouses, fortified hamlets and other structures. These were established to protect the colony from potential attacks by Native Americans in the future.
The lands recently conquered by the Dutch had been owned by Susquehannock previously. The Susquehannock had sold these lands to New Sweden. The Dutch decided to repurchase the claims to these lands so that the Susquehannock would possibly see them as legitimate owners.
In all, the Peach Tree War didn’t have a very major significance for the Dutch colonists. It did, however, prevent the Dutch colony from expanding rapidly.