History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Celebrations of the State of New York
Prepared pursuant to a Concurrent Resolution
of the Legislature of 1878 and Chapter 391 of the Laws of 1879
By Allen C. Beach, Secretary of State.
Weed, Parsons & Co. Printers 1879.
This is a very special book which has been loaned by Anita Smith for the purpose of putting anything of interest on the Fort Klock site. Her father, Joseph Bellen, was given this book by S. L. Frey, and Mr. Frey received it from C. K. Winne. It was a very limited edition book, 5,000 copies, the entire expense of which "shall not exceed six thousand dollars" and each officer, reporter and member of the Legislature was given ten copies. (This is one of those copies.) The remaining thousand copies were distributed to libraries.
The Battle of Oriskany, This part is about the celebration, and what a celebration it was! The next file History of the Battle gives many interesting historical detail about the battle.
General Nicholas Herkimer
Proceeding of the Celebration, August 6, 1877.
A proper celebration of the Battle of Oriskany, upon its one hundredth anniversary, was the spontaneous desire of the residents of the section in which it occurred, and from which its actors were derived. This wish found expression in many quarters of that section early in 1877, the third year of the centennial commemoration of revolutionary events. In compliance with numerous suggestions in the public press, and elsewhere, that the Oneida Historical Society, at Utica, was the appropriate organization to inaugurate a systematic plan for the desired celebration, a special meeting of that body was held for the purpose, at Utica, on the 8th day of June, 1877, at which the following resolutions were adopted:
One hundred years from August 6, 1877, there occurred, near the junction of the Oriskany and Mohawk streams, the most desperate and sanguinary and one of the most important battles of the American Revolution. On that spot the whole military force of the Mohawk Valley, proceeding to the relief of the besieged Fort Stanwix, encountered the invading army, and nearly one-half laid down their lives in defense of home and country. This conflict prevented the union of the invaders with Burgoyne, at the Hudson, and contributed to his surrender.
It is eminently proper, in this era of centennial celebrations of the Revolution, that this event should be suitably commemorated. The battle of Oriskany is the prominent feature of revolutionary history in this section. It seems to devolve upon the Oneida Historical Society, as nearest to the locality, to take the initiative steps, and to invite the cooperation of the other organization and individuals throughout the Mohawk Valley in a appropriate and worthy celebration of this memorable conflict, upon its hundredth anniversary; therefore,
Resolved, That a meeting be held on the 19th day of June, at 2 P.M., at the Common Council Chamber, in Utica, to make arrangements for the centennial celebration of the Battle of Oriskany, on the battle ground.
Resolved, That all organizations, desirous of participating, are cordially invited to send representatives to said meeting.
Resolved, That the chair appoint a committee of arrangements to represent this society, and that it shall be the duty of this committee to issue all proper invitations, and make all necessary arrangements for such meeting.
The following committee was appointed:
S. Dering, R. S. Williams, C. W. Hutchinson, T. P. Ballou, M. M. Jones, Utica; George Graham, Oriskany; D. E. Wager, S. G. Visscher, Rome; E. North, Clinton; E. Graves, Herkimer; Webster Wagner, Palatine Bridge.
The invitation was warmly responded to throughout the Mohawk Valley, Meetings of citizens and organizations were at once held, and delegates appointed to represent them on the 19th of June. At that meeting a program of the necessary committees for the celebration was adopted. Ex-Governor Horatio Seymour was chosen, by acclamation, President of the day,and the following general committee of arrangements was appointed:
Sub-committees on invitations, monument, military, firemen, brounds, transportation, reporters, etc., were also named. At a subsequent meeting fo the general committee of arrangements, Alfred J. Wagner, of Fort Plain, was unanimously chosen Grand Marshal, and Daniel T. Everts, of Utica, was made Chief of Staff.
It is unnecessary in this place to mention the many subordinate meetings and proceedings, which occupied the public attention down to the memorable day. The records of these may be found int he files of the public journals in the Mohawk Valley. It is sufficient to state that all the details requisite for a complete and satisfactory results were carefully and industriously perfected in the several localities interested, and by the officers and the committees charged with the respective duties. The historic grounds were thrown open to the public, and duly prepared for its reception. Invitations were sent to those who from official station or personal association with the event, were considered appropriate guests for the occasion.
So much is necessary simply to introduce the celebration itself. Nothing can show more conclusively the patriotic ardor of the people in these celebrations that an account of the manner in which they were conducted.
From the official account published by the Oneida Historical Society, we take the following account of the general scenes of the celebration:
"Nature never provided a more favorable day for such an entertainment than Monday, August 6, 1877. It opened with a cloudless sky and an invigorating tempterature. With the dawn of that matchless day thousands, doubtless, first resolved to participate.
"At sunrise the salutes fired fromt he guns on the battlefield and all along the Valley of the Mohawk, awakened the people to prepare for the glorious day. From this hour until late in the day they poured into Utica, Rome and other places en route to Oriskany by hundreds and thousands, on foot, horseback, by wagons, carriages, boats streamers and rail. Men, women and children, old and young, rich and poor--all classes went 'on to Oriskany.' The roads, lanes, by-ways, hills valleys were black with people who were brown and begrimed with dust. There was no end to the stream of humanity until nearly dark, many visiting the grounds even at dark.
"Shortly after 7 A.M., Grand Marshal Wagner, with Chief of Staff Everts and aids, left headquarters at Baggs' Hotel, Utica, for Oriskany, They had a pleasant ride to prepare them for the work of the day. Chief Everts immediately sent out couriers to the places of rendezvous of the various divisions and detachments, to find if all was in readiness. Prompt returns were made; the first fromt he battleground camp to report was Colonel George Young and his cavalry coprs, admirably mounted and equipped; Whitestown, Marshal Mills, the Herkimer County Fire Department, the Kirkland Division, and other organizations followed in order.
The Grand Procession.
At 11:10 A.m., precisely, the grand military and civic procession marched from Oriskany village along the road to the battlefield in the following order:
Montgomery and Fulton Counties
Marshal A. M. Mills and Staff.
The various divisions not reporting at the village were in readiness at the places of rendezvous assigned to them, as follows:
Whitesboro and New York Mills on the farms of Messrs. Roberts and Yoxel, just west of the Church. Kirkland Division at the main street, Oriskany. Westmoreland Division at cider Street. Rome Division on the right side of the land leading from Betsinger's bridge to the main road. Brigadier-General Dering and 21st Brigade upon the Hill south of the Rome division. The Utica Division upon the south side of the main road on J. Betsinger's farm, and many independent organizations at the other points along the route.
As the head of the column reached the military organizations located along the route, salutes were fired and troops came to a present. Both sides of the road were lined with people, who cheered enthusiastically the carriage containing Governor Seymour, Mrs. Lansing, and the old flag of Gen. Gansevoort.
The location of the 21st Brigade, the Utica Citizens' Corps and Adjutant Bacon Cadets was an admirable one on the north hillside. General Dering and the Rose Cavalry Troop came riding over the hill as the column approached. The 26th Battalion remained back on the hill, while the Corps stood at a "present" in the front and center of the field, the Adjutant Bacon Cadets on the left, and the Rome Division on the north side of the road. An elevation in the road gave all a magnificent view of the grand panoramic beauty of the Mohawk Valley and the hills beyond, brilliant with emerald hues. Salutes, cheers and waving handkerchiefs greeted the column from all directions. So admirably were all the arrangements perfected that little, if any delay, was caused by the filing into line of the separate divisions.
In passing the ravine, where so many of the General Herkimer's brave men fell one hundred years ago, all the troops honored the spot by coming to a carry, and colors were dipped. These honors were the occasion of still more enthusiastic cheering.
The head of the column reached the entrance to the battlefield west of the ravine at 12:20 P.M., or one hour and ten minutes after leaving Oriskany. It led on over the route taken by General Herkimer in 1777 to the west of the field, wheeled to the north and moved on to the line of the grand marshal's field quarters, then to the east past the grand stand, where Governor Seymour, Mrs. Lansing with the old flag, the orators and distinguished guests alighted--the column moving around the amphitheater to the south and west again, until a hollow square was formed around the amphitheater and grand stand. The column occupied just an hour in passing a given point near the field.
From the grand marshal's tent the view presented at the time of the moving of the column on the field was one that never can be forgotten. The amphitheater seemed to be formed for the occasion. It commanded a view of the whole of the grounds, with the exception of the center of the southern portion of the ravine. The eminence on the east side, with Camp Seymour, the camps on the the south side of the road, the village of booths and tents, the brilliant display of moving uninformed and armed men, their arms and trappings dazzling the eyes in the sunlight, and -- more imposing than all, the constantly moving mass of humanity that covered every portion of the field and all its surrounding, formed a panoramic view that has never been surpassed, if equaled, in this State. The best estimate formed by comparing the notes of men of experience makes the number present between 60,000 and 75,000. It was a hard task to estimate by counting groups, because the people were constantly moving. In addition to the masses within view on all parts of the field, the road between Oriskany and Rome was filled with people. All the fields for miles around were occupied at noon.
To complete the picture of the celebration it is only necessary to add a few items taken from the newspaper accounts, indicative of the manner of the celebration and the ardor of the people. The Utica Observer, an afternoon daily, says on the day of celebration:
"Utica is today a deserted city. Every imaginable form of locomotion has been taxed to its utmost to convey the vast crowds from this city, which make up a respectable portion of the assembled concourse. Over all roads bearing west, there has been continuous travel for the last nine hours, carryalls, hacks, private vehicles of every form, date and description thronged the highways. The speedy little steamers and their larger and more significant sisters have puffed up and down between the canal banks, groaning beneath the unaccustomed weight of thousands. It is impossible to even approximately estimate the number which Utica has contributed to make the celebration an overwhelming success.
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Saturday evening will be long remembered in Utica. It is always a night which presents unusual attractions to a large class, but seldom, if ever, has Genesee street been so crowded of an evening as it was then. To this the circus contributed somewhat, but it was chiefly due to the general sense of the approaching celebration, which seemed to fill the very air. Most of the stores were brilliantly lighted, and the wide sidewalks were crowded to the utmost.
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Sunday was spent on the grounds very quietly. It is true that bands played at intervals. A company of Post Avenue singers traversed the ground,and drum corps marched about, while people in crowds tramped from point to point in continuous procession -- but, save one fight, no disturbance took place.
Still the day did not savor at all of Sunday. Rev. Mr. Skeel, of Whitesboro, preached a brief sermon in the near vicinity of the Cadets' camp, and obtained a large audience and respectful hearing, but aside from this, religious exercises were non est.
The Battalion observed the day quietly, having a dress parade at 5 P.M., which was creditably performed.
The Cadets had a dress parade in the morning and another at sunset.
Young's Cavalry Corps had a dress parade in the evening, Sherman's Band, of New Hartford, gave them an open-air concert later. The dress parade was done with military precision and effectiveness. The concert was well worth hearing.
This morning, Monday, the village of Oriskany was thronged -- nay, crowded with people. There was scarcely room to walk in the streets. On this account the pretty decoration of the village homes passed unnoticed by very many. Nevertheless, they were very fine, and from the bridge westward there was one almost continuous line of pretty things on the houses and in the yards.
The Utica Herald of the day following contained the following items:
The Railroad Arrangements.
Superintendent Priest and his employees were kept busy yesterday in providing railroad transportation to the battlefield. All the available coaches on the division were pressed into service and yet every train was crowded from the locomotive to the rear platform. From 8:15 A. M. to late in the afternoon the special and regular trains going west were run as rapidly as possible for safety and to keep out of the way of through trains. During the morning seven or more ticket offices were opened in the Utica depot, General Priest, Agents Andrews and Jones, Clerk Earl, ex-conductor Hadcock, Roadmaster Angell, Depot Master Linsman and others being pressed into service to deal out pasteboards in exchange for thirty cents. Not one in five could get tickets as fast as they wanted them, and the majority paid on the trains. This came from disregarding Agent Andrews' advice to procure tickets Saturday. Finally the supply of battleground tickets gave out, and the agents had to fall back on cards to Rome, Oneida and other stations. Passengers rode on the roofs of the coaches and in all other places to which they could hang, and fortunately all escaped injury as far as reported. Branch ticket offices had to be opened in all the stations east of this city. General Priest paid his entire attention to the running of the trains, and in the afternoon remained at the battleground station so as to see that everything possible was done to accommodate the multitude. He frankly admitted that the crowd was seventeen times larger than he had calculated upon and did not cease wondering about where all the people came from.
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One of the important incidents of the battle of one hundred years ago was the occurrence of a terrible storm during the night of the engagement. This proved to be of great service to General Herkimer's army and aided in demoralizing the enemy. The general committee arranged for a similar storm at a late hour in the afternoon, so as to have everything complete, but there was some hitch in the program, and, strange to say, everyone except the stragglers got home without a wetting, but -- we had the storm. About 9 P.M. a lively storm came up, with splendid electrical displays and salvos of thunder claps, which awakened the echoes like the artillery of the morning. The storm purified the air, laid the dust, and perfected the program, so that all should be satisfied.
The Literary Exercises.
The literary exercises of the celebration began promptly after the arrival of the procession on the battlefield. The vast concourse was called to order by John F. Seymour, Chairman of the General Committee of Arrangements. Chief of Staff Everts announced the immediate order of exercises, and Rev. Dr. E. M. Van Deusen, rector of Grace church, Utica, offered prayer.
Ex-Governor Horatio Seymour was then introducted by Mr. Graham, and was received with hearty applause. His point of address was from under a stout spreading tree, where a platform had been erected, while the people sat on benches arranged in a semicircle in front, though a much larger crowd was compelled to stand in the aisles and the rear.
Address of Welcome by Hon. Horatio Seymour.
All who care for the glory of our country, all who love to study the history of events which have shaped our civilization, government and laws; all who seek to lift up the virtues of our people by filling their minds with lofty standards of patriotism, will rejoice that we meet today on this battlefield to honor the courage and devotion displayed here one hundred years ago. The sacred duty in which we are engaged does not merely concern the memories of the dead; it teaches the duties and elevates the character of the living. The command that we honor our fathers is not only a religious requirement, but it is a grave maxim of jurisprudence. Those who think and speak of virtue and patriotism sow in their own and in the minds of others the seeds of virtue and patriotism. The men of the valley of the Mohawk will be wiser and better for this gathering upon the spot where their fathers fought and suffered, and bled to uphold the cause of this country.
Effect of The Celebration
The preparation for this celebration, the events of the day, the facts which will be brought to light, the duties which will be taught, will in some degree tell upon the character of every man before me. They will do more. They will revive the legends of the past in every household in this valley. They will give them currency among all classes, and weave them into woof and warp of popular knowledge. Much that was dying out will be revived and stamped upon the memories of the oncoming generation. This celebration makes our hills and streams teachers of virtue. It gives new interest to the course of our river and our valley. For, henceforth, they will recall to our minds more clearly the events of the past. Every spot noted for some stirring act will hereafter, as we pass them by, remind us of the deeds of our fathers. The old churches and homes built when Britain ruled our country, and which were marred by war when this valley was desolated by torch and tomahawk, will grow more sacred in our eyes. Their timeworn walls will teach us in their silent way to think of suffering, of bloodshed, of ruthless ravages, more dreadful and prolonged than were endured elsewhere during the revolutionary struggle.
New York in History
We are this day bringing out the events of our country in their true light. Historians have done much and well in making up the records of the past. But their recitals have not yet become, as they should be, a part of the general intelligence of our people. Views are distorted by local prejudices. Events are not seen in their just proportions or in proper perspectives. This is mainly due to the neglect of its history by New York. There is a dimness in the popular vision about this great center, source and theater of events which have shaped the civilization, usages and government of this continent. This is not only a wrong to our State, but to our Union. It has left the annals of other sections disjointed from their due relationships to the great body of our traditions. This want of an understanding of the affairs of New York has been to the history of our country what the conquest by Britain of its strongholds during the Revolution would have been to the American cause. It has broken its unity.
Let us who live along the course of the Mohawk now enter upon our duty of making its history as familiar as household words. Let us see that the graves of dead patriots are marked by monuments. Let suitable structures tell the citizen of other States and countries, when they pass along our thoroughfares, where its great events were enacted. And let all this be done in a way that shall stir our hearts and educate our minds Let it not be done by virtue of an act of Legislature, but by virtue of our own efforts and patriotism. Let us not look elsewhere for aid when we would honor the memories of those who here served their country in the heart of our State. To my mind, this would be as unfit as for that family whose circle has been broken by death to let strangers come in a perform the last sacred office to their departed kindred. Let our colleges teach their students the history of the jurisprudence of New York, and it will make them wiser citizens when they enter upon the duties of life. Let our more youthful scholars be taught the events and traditions which make our hills instinct with glowing interest. Let the family circle by the fireside learn the legends of our valley, and let the mother with glowing pride tell to her offspring what those of their own blood and lineage did for their country's welfare, so that patriotism should be kindled at each hearthstone. Let the rich man give of his abundance, and the poor what he can, with a willing heart, and then when monuments shall stand on this field or on other spots consecrated by the ashes of those who perished for their country, such monuments will not only show that the memories of the dead have been honored, but that the living are intelligent, virtuous and patriotic.
The Importance of New York
When Europeans first came to our shores they found the region stretching from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, from the great lakes to the center of the present State of North Carolina, under the control of the Iroquois. They gained their power by their possession of the strongholds in this State. From these they followed the diverging valleys, which gave them pathways into the country of their enemies, who were divided by the chains of mountains which separated the rivers after they had taken their courses from the highlands of New York. For more Than a century a contest in arms and diplomacy was carried on between Great Britain and France for the control of that system of mountains and rivers of this State, which made the Iroquois the master of all adjacent tribes. Albany, at the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson, became the colonial capital of the British settlements. It was the point from which, during the long years of the French war, most of the military expeditions were sent forth. It was the place at which were held the meetings of the agents of the several colonies, and at which they learned the value of cooperation and conceived the idea of a union of the colonies. Most of the revolutionary struggle was marked by the same continuous effort of the contending parties to gain control of the commanding positions of this State.
The battles of Oriskany, Bennington and Saratoga, gave to our fathers the victory in the contest. When our independence was achieved, the valleys, which had been the warpaths of the savage and civilized armies, became the great thoroughfares through which the still mightier armies of immigration from Europe and the East filled the interior of our continent. At our feet are railroads and water routes that have been for a series of years the thoroughfares for a vast current of commerce, and the greatest movement of the human race recorded in its history. All other movements, in war or peace, are insignificant in comparison with the vast numbers that have passed along the borders of this battlefield to find homes in the great plains of the West, to organize social systems and to built up great States. The histories of our country, which fail to set forth clearly the events of this great central point, are as obscure and as defective, as would be an attempt to describe the physical aspects of the country, and yet should omit a mention of the great streams of our land on the highlands of our state which flow from them into the cold waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, into the tepid currents of the Gulf of Mexico, or the great bays of New York, of the Delaware and Chesapeake. The currents of events which distinguish our history, like the currents of our rivers, have largely had their origin in our territory.
To the ceremonies of this day in honor of those who battled for American liberty in the past, and in the faith that this day's proceedings will promote virtue and patriotism in the future, we extend a welcome to all in attendance here. To the State officials who honor us by their presence; to citizens and soldiers who manifest their gratitude to those who sacrificed so much on the ground for the public welfare. It is with no ordinary feelings that we meet the descendants of those who fought at the battle of Oriskany, one of the most fierce and bloody contests of the Revolution. As we saw them coming along the course of the Mohawk the past seemed to be recalled. When we look at the array from the upper valley and those who sallied from Fort Stanwix to join us here, we feel reinforced by friends, as our fathers, from the same quarters. We welcome all to this celebration of patriotic service and sacrifice. When it is closed we shall bid you God speed to your several homes, with the prayer that in your different walks of life you will do your duty as manfully and serve your country as faithfully as the men who battled so bravely on this ground one hundred years ago.
The Audience listened with marked attention and appreciation, often interrupting the speaker with hearty applause.
Unfurling The Flag.
When the applause had subsided, Gov. Seymour said he had something more to say, and spoke as follows:
It is just a source of patriotic pride to those who live in this valley that the flag of our country (with the stars and stripes) was first displayed in the face of our enemies on the banks of the Mohawk. Here it was Baptised in the blood of battle. Here it first waved in triumph over a retreating foe. When the heroic defenders of Fort Stanwix learned in that remote fortress the emblems adopted by the Continental Congress for the standards to be borne by its armies, they hastened to make one in accordance with the mandate and to hang it out from the walls of their fortress. It was rudely made of such materials cut from the clothing of the soldiers as were fitted to show its colors and its designs. But no other standard, however skillfully wrought upon silken folds, could equal in interest this flag of our country worked out by the unskilled hands of brave men, amid the strife of war and under the fire of beleaguering foes. It was to rescue it from its peril that the men of this valley left their homes and marched through the deep forest to this spot.
It was to uphold the cause of which it was the emblem that they battled here. Time has destroyed that standard. But I hold in my hand another banner hardly less sacred in its associations with our history. It is the flag of our State which was borne by the regiment commanded by Colonel Gansevoort, not only here at the beginning of the revolutionary war, but also when it was ended by the surrender of the British army at Yorktown. The brave soldier who carried it through so many contests valued it beyond all other earthly possessions. He left it as a precious heirloom to his family. They have kept it with such faithful care that again, after a century has rolled away, its folds can be displayed in this valley to another generation, who will look upon it with a devotion equal to that felt by those who followed it on the battlefields of the Revolution. When it is now unfurled, let it receive the military honors accorded it a hundred years ago; and let us reverently uncover our heads in memory of the dead who watched and guarded it through the bloodshed and perils of ancient war.
Hon. John F. Seymour then lifted the flag which floated proudly in the breeze. At the sight of it the vast audience gave three rousing cheers and lifted their hats. All the military presented arms, and the bands played the "Star Spangled Banner." The Fultonville battery belched forth a salute which shook the hills, and cheer upon cheer went up. The effect was thrilling. Three hearty cheers were given for General Peter Gansevoort and his descendants.
History of The Flag.
This flag was the standard of the Third New York regiment, commanded by Colonel Peter Gansevoort, who at the disbandment of the army retained it in his own possession and handed it down to his son, the late Peter Gansevoort, from whom it descended to his daughter, Mrs. Abraham Lansing, in whose hands it is now preserved with the greatest care. The flag consists of a piece of heavy blue silk, of very fine quality, and which has preserved its color remarkably. Its present dimensions are those of a square, being nearly seven feet each way, but is is probable that it was originally somewhat longer and better proportioned. The outer edge is hemmed, but on the upper and lower margin the fringe, which no doubt was once very rich and extended all around, still remains. The design upon the flag represents the arms of the State of New York, but not as at present, nor yet like the seal adopted in 1778. It is probably that it was painted while the design of 1778 was under consideration, as it bears some resemblance to it. In the center there is an oval shield upon which is depicted the sun rising from behind a mountain peak, the foot of which reaches down to water; above the shield is the eagle standing upon a hemisphere. The shield is supported on either hand by female figures about twenty-five inches high, on the left Liberty, on the right Justice holding the even balance, beneath all a scroll bearing the word "Excelsior."
Notwithstanding the care which has been bestowed upon it, this sacred relic shows the ravages of time, the painting being somewhat cracked, and the silk rent with many a gash. So much as remains, however, will be handed down to posterity, to be regarded by each generation with deeper reverence and affection.
Thanks to Mrs. Lansing.
Gov. Seymour then spoke of the lady who had kindly consented to allow the flag to be exhibited. He said:
We owe it to the kindness of a lady, the granddaughter of the heroic Gansevoort, that the interest of this occasion has been heightened by the exhibition of the banner which was just displayed. As I have stated he left it as an heirloom to his descendants. It now belongs to his granddaughter, Mrs. Abraham Lansing, of Albany. We could not ask her to surrender it even for a short time into our hands, for we felt that no one of the lineage of Colonel Gansevoort would surrender a flag. The effort to get him to do that was unsuccessfully tried by St. Leger, although he had an army to enforce his demands. We therefore urged her to honor us by her presence at this time and to bring with her as its guardian the banner which has just been exhibited. I know I express the feelings of this assemblage when I say that in complying with our request, she has conferred upon us a favor which will long be remembered in the valley of the Mohawk. In behalf of this assembly, I thank her for her kindness and for her presence on this occasion.
The audience expressed its appreciation by three hearty cheers and continued applause for General Gansevoort and his descendants.
An intermission of one hour was then announced, and the thousands of people went in search of dinner.
AT THE WEST STAND
At 2:45, when the exercises at the West Stand were opened, a dense throng was congregated, packed around on all sides. The platform was in a hollow, in the scanty shade of an apple tree, the people closing around as in a amphitheater, only pressing closely upon the arena. The Old Utica Band, stationed under a neighboring apple tree, opened the exercises.
John F. Seymour called the assemblage to order. He said: We have the pleasure of having with us Lieutenant-Governor Dorsheimer, Major Douglas Campbell, Judge Bacon and Ellis H. Roberts, who will address us on this occasion. Before the speaking, however, he read a number of letters received from gentlemen invited to be present, but who have been unable to attend. Among these were letters from Rutherford B. Hayes, President, and William A. Wheeler, Vice-president of the United States, Secretary Evarts, Ex-Secretary Fish, Gen. Geo. B. McClellan, William Cullen Bryant, Gov. Lucius Robinson, Benson J. Lossing, the historian, Bayard Taylor, and other prominent gentlemen. At the conclusion of the reading, Mr. Seymour introduced Hon. William Dorsheimer, Lieutenant-Governor of the state.
ADDRESS OF LIEUTENANT-GOVERNOR DORSHEIMER.
Mr. President and Fellow Citizens: You have assembled here not only to celebrate a noted historical event, but also to indulge the pride which all men feel in the honorable acts of their ancestors. The victory at Oriskany was the contribution which the German emigrants made to American independence. We are all apt to forget that all nations have a share in our country's history. An Italian sailing under the Spanish flag discovered the new world, and another Italian gave his name to the continent. A Frenchman discovered the St. Lawrence, while a Frenchman and a Spaniard were the first to see, the one the souther and the other the northern reaches of the Mississippi. A Portuguese, on his way around the world, disclosed the outlines of South America. Spanish eyes first beheld the pacific, an Englishman first sailed along the dreary coast of Labrador, and an Englishman sailing under the Dutch flag first came into the Bay of New York, and gave his name to the picturesque river into which the waters which shine before our eyes will flow on their way to the sea. The enterprise of all the nations gave America to the world.
The settlement of the continent was the work of all the great European nations. France, with characteristic energy, took possession of the Canadas and pushed her colonies so vigorously, as to make it probable she would control the continent. Spain held Florida, the mouths of the Mississippi and most of the vast region which lies to the west of that river. England laid claim to Virginia, Massachusetts, the Carolinas and Pennsylvania, and Holland planted a colony in the valley of the Hudson.
Those who came here were not greatly influenced by the causes of emigration at present. It was not poverty which forced the first settlers to come. Europe had been for generations given over to wars which had their origin in religious hate, and which were continued for various dynastic and political considerations. Puritans fled from the tyranny of Charles, and Huguenots fromt he tyranny of Louis. Dissenters came here to escape Episcopalian intolerance, and non-conformists to escape Presbyterian persecution; Round Heads and Vavaliers, Quakers and Catholics; the representatives of all parties and sects.
Among the most notable instances of cruelty in was during the seventeenth century was the desolation of the Palatinate by the armies of Louis XIV. The traveler who walks through the ruined castle at Heidelberg beholds, perhaps, the only witness now remaining of the rapacity with which the French king laid waste not only the palace of the monarch, but also the cottage of the peasant. Driven from their homes, some of the people of the Palatinate came to America, and settled in the valley of the Mohawk, to which they may have been led because if its resemblance to their own land of beautiful rivers and fertile valleys. But, I have been told that they were induced by the Dutch magnates to settle on the Mohawk, because it was in the Indian country, and they would protect the other colonies to the east, and that they were best suited to such a service because they were accustomed to have their homes pillaged and burned. From whatever cause, they settled here on the outposts. They were well placed; for here they dealt the first blow at the most formidable expedition which England organized for the conquest of the colonies.
I will not weary you by going into a detailed account of the battle. But, you will pardon me, if I indulge a kinsman's pride, and dwell for a moment upon the conflict which raged here a century ago.
Herkimer and his men were ambuscaded by the Indians. That was a favorite device in Indian warfare. It was in such a conflict that Braddock felt, and the young Washington won his first laurels. It had generally been successful. But it did not succeed with those sturdy Germans. True, that, then as always, there were some who, irresolute and cowardly, took to flight. But most, although they were simple farmers without military training, not only stood their ground, but quickly adapted themselves to the occasion, adopted the Indian tactics, posted themselves behind trees, and fought with such skill and endurance all through the summer day, that the Indians, to sue the language of one of their chiefs, had enough and did not want "to fight Dutch Yankee any more."
You Germans who hear me, you have abundant reason for pride. No more important battle has ever been fought in this country. Nowhere, with an opportunity for escape, have troops endured so sever a loss; never has a battle which began with disaster been turned into victory more complete. And this was a German fight. The words of warning and encouragement, the exclamations of passion and of pain, the shouts of battle and of victory, the commands which the wounded Herkimer spoke, and the prayers of the dying, were in the German language. I say you may well be proud of it, for it is the contribution which men of your race have made to the work of American independence.
Perhaps, at some time, the deed of American valor will be celebrated, as the military glories of France are celebrated in the stately galleries of Versailles, and certainly no more impressive scene will be offered to the artists' pencil than Herkimer wounded to the death, seated upon his saddle which he had placed upon the ground,and smoking his pipe throughout all that dreadful fray.
The course of history is often determined by the conduct of one man. Who can tell how much that simple hero, by his example of calmness in the midst of turbulence and disorder, contributed to the victory? And, therefore, who can estimate the debt which the country owes to him?
My fellow citizens, I have today traveled through the valley of the Mohawk, from near its mouth to this place where the river gathers the streamlets from the hills, and surely a fairer scene never rested under human eyes. The land stood in the mature beauty of the summer, and the harvest crowded the broad levels like a mighty host.
These, the crops which cover your fields, are the creations of your own hands working in harmony with natural laws. But, do not forget that your other and more valuable possessions, the prizes which are held out to honorable ambition, freedom of thought and worship, the peace which here covers the sleep of innocence and the helplessness of infancy and age -- all these, the priceless possessions of a free and enlightened community, are also the creations of your own hands working in harmony with liberty and with law. To establish these for you Herkimer and his men strove here a hundred years ago. Be sure they will not be maintained for yourselves nor transmitted to your children without sacrifice and battle. In some way you will be compelled to make good your title to this great inheritance. We will hope that when the peril shall come to you, and the sudden foe shall spring from his ambush, you may do your duty as well as they did theirs.
At the conclusion of Governor Dorsheimer's speech three cheers were called for and heartily given.
Mr. John F. Seymour -- I now have the honor of introducing one who might better introduce me, Judge Bacon.
ADDRESS OF HON. W. J. BACON.
The thoughtful -- and more especially the reverent student of history, cannot fail to have been often struck, if not indeed profoundly impressed, by the evidence presented of the power of an unseen, but most potent hand in human affairs. That interposition is sometimes exhibited on a scale of such wide and magnificent proportions, so manifestly controlling great events, as not only to arrest observation, but to compel belief. Sometimes it sets in operation a succession of minute causes, none of them having in themselves apparently any potential influence, but in their combination, succession and outcome, conducting to results that affect the destinies of men and nations for uncounted ages.
It is indeed, quite reasonable to look for an anticipate such results. If, as we are taught by the most infallible authority, "There's a Providence in the fall of a sparrow," we should most naturally expect that influences and forces, that are to affect the highest order of beings that inhabit our planet, would be under the same guiding hand that directed the flight, and witness the fall of the bird that but for a short season floated in the atmosphere above u. The antecedents of far reaching results may, as has been suggested, be of the most humble and obscure character, and have apparently little relevancy to what followed in their train, or was affected by them; for we are taught, and taught truly, by the great dramatist, that "There's economy, even in heaven." But we have only to put ourselves teachably in the attitude of disciples in the school of history, and reverently sit at the feet of our master, to be taught the wonderful lessons that reach to depths that man's mere hair line wisdom never could have fathomed.
It was, apparently, a small thing, most insignificant, indeed, when measured against the overwhelming scale of the opposing forces, that three hundred men should have planted themselves in the pass of Thermopylae, to dispute the passage of the vast army of the Persian invaders. But what an illustrious example it was, not to Greece only in her crucial hour, but to "all nations and people that on earth do dwell," or ever will in the ages to come, of the power of self-sacrifice that an exalted patriotism inspires. How much it conduced to prove that strength is not always, and necessarily in battalions through they be in numbers like the sands of the sea, if they be poorly led, and have not the inspiration that possesses those who
for their altars and their fires;
Strike for the green graves of their sires,
God and their native land."
This very resistance, hopeless though it was to prevent the ultimate advance of the serried hosts that confronted them, gave Greece time to rally and combine her forces, gave heart and hope to those whose expectations of successful resistance had almost perished before the struggle had even begun, and was a perpetual reminder that no man was to shrink from any peril, however great, to avoid no duty on however small a scale, and with whatever disparity in force it was to be performed, and, above all, to be animated by the spirit that was ready to dare all things, to do all things, and then, if need be, cheerfully to die for the land it loved, and would to the best extremity defend. Poetry has canonized the memory of the gallant "six hundred" that "rode into the mouth of hell," but history has immortalized on one of her best and brightest pages the "three hundred" that fell at the gateway of Greece; and what an invaluable lesson it was to the student of history of the great and unexpected results that stand connected with apparently trivial causes, and that what men chiefly have to do in this world it to perform the duty right before them,and leave the result to be molded, fashioned and controlled by the hand that is ever on the helm through storm as well as sunshine.
The history of the world affords numberless instances of the truth I have been rather hinting at thean elaborating, and it might be copiously illustrated in the whole narrative of the history ofof this continent from the time it first revealed itself to the straining eyes of the world seeking Genoese to the days in which we live. but there was one incident occurring during the recent fratricidal struggle which we have, as we may trust, happily and hopefully closed,which I may be pardoned for alluding to. I do it, you may well beleive me, for no personal or partisan purpose, nor to awaken any sentiment, or revive any recollection that is not in perfect harmoney with such a hallowed day as them, but simply to illustrate the principle of which I am speaking.
The 8th of March, 1862, was a gloomy day in our national horizon. The sun in the heavens came forth, indeed, with brightness and beauty. But his beams fell upon the result of a work which silently and secretly had converted the beautiful Merrimac of our navy into the confederate ram Virginia, clad in iron armor which no ordinary artillery could penetrate, and a beak whose stroke no wooden vessel could resist. Steaming out of the harbor of Norfolk, she at once singled out her victims, and ere the sun went down the Cumberland was beneath the waters of the James, the Congress had surrendered, and was in flames, the Minnesota was helplessly aground, and the rest of the fleet that flaunted the stars and stripes was put to ignominious flight, or sought safety under the protecting guns of fortresses. Alarm filled the public mind. A new and unexpected source of danger was revealed. The Potomac would be ascended,and the Capital itself bombarded by hostile guns. Even the harbor of New York, it was conceived, might be sought by this new and destructive visitor whose coming nothing was prepared to resist. Swiftly the telegraph bore the news to all parts of the land, and all loyal faces gathered blackness. How shall this area peril be averted, and where shall we look for help, was the question on every lip.
But with equal silence and secrecy another, and still more wonderful, naval machine had been developed and constructed. She was completed at New York on the very day the Virginia received her armament, and while the latter was doing her work of destruction in the waters of the James, the Monitor was slowly steaming toward them, bent, however upon an entirely different mission. Near the close of that day of terror her commander heard the noise of distant artillery, and could faintly distinguish the shouts of victory borne on the breeze. Instantly the course of the vessel was changed, and in the night the gallant captain moored her under the lee of the stranded Minnesota, rightly concluding that the morning would witness the return of the iron monster, to secure her remaining prey. Nor did he judge amiss, for with the sun came again the Virginia, under her equally gallant captain. But as she approaches her apparently helpless victim, what strange apparition is this that emerges from the side, and almost from beneath the Minnesota. "It is a Yankee cheese box on a raft," exclaims a bewildered spectator. The cheese box revolves, and an iron turret is disclosed, holding the most deadly and powerful missiles, which it discharges with such effect that ultimately the hitherto invincible Virginia retires from the conflict, and seeks the harbor from which she never again emerged. I need say no more in regard to this most wonderful interposition, that it lifted a mountain's weight from off the heart of the nation, and impressed more deeply the lesson that all history has been teaching us, that deliverance often comes as well from the most unexpected quarters as from apparently insignificant agencies, and that, when the hour has struck for their appearance, they come forth, under the Divine hand, to execute their mission.
The application of these somewhat desultory remarks and illustrations to the subject of this day's commemorations, is so obvious as not to require or permit any extended discussion. Doubtless the men, who, on the 6th of August, 1777, stood upon these hillsides, or were struggling through this ravine, were as little aware of the extent of the peril they were encountering, as of the magnitude of the issue that was suspended on the doing of that and the immediate following days. Whatever of suspicion, or even of prevision, was cherished or possessed by those who were then defending these outposts, they could not well have known that upon their successful resistance to the advance of St. Leger the entire result of the campaign of Burgoyne depended. They could not appreciate, and yet it was substantially true, that they stood at the pass of a modern Thermopylae, for the little fortress of Stanwix was the gateway of the Mohawk Valley, down with St. Leger, with his conquering hordes, would have carried both fire and sword, and gathering strength, as all such unopposed raids invariably do, would have brought to Burgoyne a contingent most acceptable, as it was most needed. Whatever ignorance of the general plan of the enemy then prevailed, we now know with reasonable certainty that the plan contemplated the movement of Sir Henry Clinton, with all his available forces, up the Hudson from New York, the union of all the strength that St. Leger could bring from the West, and the combination of all these forces with Burgoyne, which, had it been achieved, would have constituted a strength of military power that all that Gates commanded, or could have summoned to his aid, would have been unable to resist. What might have happened had this combination been effected, no man is competent to tell; but this may with certainty be said, there would have been for us, at this day, no 17th of October in which to celebrate the unconditional surrender of the strongest British army then in the field, and the first grand act of the Revolution would not have closed, as it did, in the triumph of the American army at Saratoga.
Let us rejoice, then, that if it was not given to our fathers to see the far reaching consequences of their action, a heart was given them that beat truly and fervently for that infant liberty whose cradle they then were rocking, and a courage that survived the shock of apparent present defeat, ending in ultimate victory. In view, then, of these and other parallel incidents in our colonial, revolutionary and recent history, we may well take up the jubilant strain of Macaulay, when celebrating the triumph of Henry of Navarre, he sung,
glory to his holy name, from whom all glories are:
For our God hath crushed the tyrant -- our God hath raised the slave,
An mocked the counsels of the wise, and the valor of the brave. "
Citizens of Central New York, as we stand here today, and gaze around on the fair land our fathers won for us, can we fail to ask ourselves how different all this might have been had they faltered in duty? Of us it can as truthfully be said as of any people, "the liens have fallen to us in pleasant places, and we have a goodly heritage." But how came it to be ours, and whence, under the blessing of Almighty God, was it derived? Was it not from the toil and sweat and blood of a patriotic and self sacrificing ancestry?
And yet, no public and conspicuous memorial tells the passing traveler that here was fought one of the early battles of the Revolution; a battle that, in its immediate effects, but much more in its remote influences and connections, had much to do with the question of independence then at stake, and with our present existence as a nation. Nothing has, as yet, been done to redeem the pledge given by the Continental congress a hundred years ago, that on this historic spot a monument should be erected, to perpetuate the memory of those who equally with them periled "life and fortune and sacred honor," in the cause of their country. Shall this sacred duty be still longer neglected? Let the Congress of the United States be reminded emphatically of that unperformed promise -- the State of New York of its character as a trustee of the fund so sacredly and solemnly pledged, and adding its contribution, call upon the people who, to so large an extent, have been benefited and blessed by the result of those transactions we this day commemorate, to supplement the fund by a gift sufficient to erect upon this ground a column, which, if it shall not like that, which on Bunker Hill, meets the sun in his coming, whose head "their earliest beams of the morning shall gild, and parting day linger and play upon its summit," at least declare that on this day, one hundred years ago, something was done which the people of free, united and happy America, shall not willingly suffer to perish from the memory of those who now inhabit this pleasant land, or the generations that are to follow us.
Mr. Seymour said he thought it well at this point to give the people a hint of the good things in store for them, and would hastily sketch the program. First we have Mr. Roberts. He will give you more facts about the battle and its bearings than you have yet heard or thought of. Then we have some interesting reminders of the day we celebrate -- a snare drum taken from the enemy near here, a musket which did duty on this field, and other relics of like nature. Then we will show you Major Douglass Campbell, grandson of Col. Samuel Campbell, who took part in the Battle of Oriskany. Besides we have a poem by Rev. Dr. Helmer. I now have the pleasure of introducing to you Mr. Ellis H. Roberts.
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