Timothy Murphy
The Soldier with the
"Larger-Than-LIfe" Reputation

Timohty Murphy
Timothy Murphy's adventured and daring feats are part of Genesee Valley folklore. His heroic escape from the Indians and Tories during the ambush of Boyd's scouting party has enthralled readers and historians alike for over two hundred years. At this point it is impossible to determine what is true or exaggerated, yet the tales passed down through the generations, clearly portray traits many young and fearless frontier soldiers of the Revolution most likely possessed. The Schoharie Valley, however, is where this man is memorialized as a true American hero. According to Lockwood R. Doty, "...it would be difficult to magnify his astonishing skill with the rifle, or his courage..."* Although tall tales of this valiant young soldier abound, his reputation as a skilled rifleman and his unparalleled gallantry became his lasting legacy.


Murphy enlisted in General Morgan's Rifle Corp in 1776, distinguishing himself in the Battle of Saratoga, where monuments on the battlefield include one in honor of British General Simon Fraser who was killed in the battle and one to Timothy Murphy, the man who purportedly shot. Murphy also played pivotal roles in the Battle of Monmouth, the Sullivan Campaign, and various expeditions in the Schoharie and Mohawk Valleys. Another impressive monument to the memory of Timothy Murphy in the Middleburgh Cemetery was unveiled in 1910 to commemorate the 130th anniversary of his heroic deeds in repelling the attack of the British and Indians on the Middle Fort in Schoharie County, New York.

"He always carried a favorite double rifle, an object of the greatest terror to the Indians, who for a long while were awe-struck at its two successive discharges. In the hands of so skillful a marksman, the greatest execution always followed its unerring aim. He had been several times surprised by small Indian parties; but with remarkable good fortune had as often escaped. When the [Indians] had learned the mystery of his double rifle knowing that he must reload after the second discharge, they were careful not to expose themselves until he had twice fired. Once when separated from his troops he was surrounded by a large party of [Indians]. Instantly he struck down the nearest foe and fled at his utmost speed. Being hard pushed by one runner, whom alone he had not outstripped in the flight, he suddenly turned and shot him on the spot. Stopping to strip the fallen pursuer, he saw another close upon him. [Murphy] seized the rifle of the dead Indian and brought down his victim. The [Indians] supposing all danger now passed, rushed heedlessly on with yells of frantic rage. When nearly exhausted, he again turned, and with the undischarged barrel, fired and the third pursuer fell. With savage wonder the other Indians were riveted to the spot; and exclaiming that 'he could fire all day without reloading,' gave over the pursuit. From that hour, Murphy was regarded by the [Indians] as possessing a charmed life..."*

*Lockwood R. Doty, ed., History of Livingston County (pub. 1905) 169,170

(Sullivan Campaign of the Revolutionary War: The Impact on Livingston County, page 21)