History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Life and Times of
Sir William Johnson, Bart.,
by William L. Stone
Albany: J. Munsell, 78 State Street, 1865.
Although much had been accomplished by the expedition under Colonel Bouquet, yet Indian hostilities were by no means ended. In the beginning of the year, two soldiers of the Detroit garrison were murdered by a party of Pottawattamies from St. Joseph; and upon the Pennsylvania border, the tomahawk still drank the blood of the settler. French traders in the Illinois country, continued to hold out to the Indians the hope of French intervention, although while they thus spoke, the ambassadors, whom Pontiac had sent to the governor of New Orleans for aid, were paddling up the Mississippi chagrined and disappointed at their bootless mission. From this untoward aspect of Indian relations, fears were entertained that the Delawares and Shawanese would fail to redeem their promise given to Colonel Bouquet the previous autumn; and these apprehensions were strengthened, when it became known that the Shawanese hostages had escaped from Fort Pitt. These fears however, so far at least as the Delawares were concerned, happily proved groundless, and by the first days of January, two deputies from that nation were on their way to Johnson Hall. The unusually deep snow that had fallen during the winter, rendered their progress slow, and it was not until the twentieth of February, that they arrived. No formal council was immediately held. Before a treaty of peace should be concluded, the Baronet wished, for the sake of the moral effect, to have present those Delawares who had fled to Chenussio for protection. He, accordingly, sent a messenger to the Senecas, informing them that he was now ready to treat with the Susquehannas; and Delawares, provided they delivered up their king and chief conformably to their agreement at Niagara, the last July. "To this suggestion, the Senecas made no objection, and signified their intention of at once coming down. A meeting, however, of all the Confederacy at Onondaga, delayed their journey set that they did not arrive until the close of April.
This delay was not regretted by the Baronet, who, as it was, had none too much time, in which to prepare for the reception of his Indian guests. Quarters had to be prepared, and presents and provisions laid in for the gathering, which, as the Six Nations had signified their intention of also being present, promised to be large. Notwithstanding, however, the multiplicity of his cares, he found time to put up a few houses in his new settlement, in which he placed tradesmen and artisans for the benefit of his settlers, who had been obliged hitherto, very much to their inconvenience, to make their purchases either in Albany or Schenectady.1 "
On the twenty-seventh of April, one hundred and twenty Senecas arrived, bringing with them the Delaware king, and chief, Squash Cutter and Long Coat. Many of the Six Nations were also in attendance, together with some Caughnawagas, so that the whole number of Indians present on this occasion was over nine hundred. The Baronet was much pleased with the attendance of so many of the Six Nations; for the establishment of amicable relations with the western nations, although important, was not the only object that he had in view in this meeting. In the early spring of 1764, he had requested his deputy George Croghan, who was then in London on private business, to draw up a memorial of Indian, affairs, and lay it before the lords of trade. In this memorial, Croghan urged the purchase, by the parent government, of a large tract of land whose western boundary should be the Ohio river, and that the territory west of this boundary should be expressly reserved to the Six Nations for their hunting
1 Manuscript letter; Johnson to Peter Hosenclever, 22 March, 1765.
grounds. The Indians, Croghan said, had heretofore regarded the English as a counterpoise to the power of the French, and for that reason had always been their friends. Since the late war, however, they had looked upon the English in a very different light, and had become exceedingly jealous of their growing power. This feeling, he thought, would be dispelled, if a tract of country should be secured to them and their children forever, under the protection of his majesty. "Nor," added Croghan, paying them in the remark a deserved compliment, which many of the whites might well have noted,- "need there be any solicitude that the Indians will not keep their agreement, for it is well known that they never claimed any right to a tract of country, after they sold it with the consent of their council, and received any consideration though never so little." These suggestions were considered by the lords of trade so judicious, that, acting upon them, they immediately drew up a "plan for the future management of Indian affairs," and sent it, in July of the same year, to Sir William Johnson, for his perusal and correction.
As the present meeting, therefore, presented a favorable opportunity for ascertaining the sentiments of the Six Nations in relation to the boundary thus recommended, Sir William, although he was not yet empowered to settle anything definitely, took occasion, in the course of the conferences, to draw out their views upon the subject. "The king," said he, "being very desirous to put an end to all disputes between his subjects and your people concerning lands, has fallen upon a boundary between our provinces . and the Indians (which no white man shall ever invade) as the surest method of accomplishing that end." This plan, he was convinced, must appear to them so reasonable, that he was confident they would lend him all possible aid in settling upon a division line. As soon as he was fully
1 Croghan's memorial to the lords of trade.
empowered, he should also consult the governors of the several provinces in relation to it, but in the meantime, he was very desirous of knowing what boundary they would consider fair, and upon which they would cheerfully agree. This proposition, presented with so much tact, struck the Indians favorably, and while in private council, one of their sachems, whose English name was Thomas King, urged them to agree forthwith upon some definite line. "Let us make a line," said he, "for the benefit of our children, that they may have lands that can't be taken from them; and let us in that, show the king that we are generous, and that we will leave him land enough for his people; then he will regard us and take better care that his people do not cheat us." This appeal, so artless and confiding, determined his braves, and in the general meeting the next day, on the sixth of May, they proposed a line running from the German Flats to Oswego, on the east branch of the Susquehanna; thence to Fort Augusta, now Sunbury; thence up the west branch of the Susquehanna to Kittaning on the Ohio; and thence down that river to the Cherokee, now the Tennessee river.
Having thus ascertained the disposition of the Indians in relation to the boundary, Sir William next turned his attention to the Ohio deputies, with whom he concluded a treaty of peace, on the eighth of May. The conditions upon which peace was granted were that free permission should be immediately granted to his majesty's troops to pass through their country; that they should assist to the utmost, the efforts of the English in securing the Illinois; and that they should send some of their people with Mr. Croghan, who was about to leave Fort Pitt to take possession of those forts still in possession of the French. In case, moreover, any murders should hereafter be committed by their nation, the offender was to be delivered up at the nearest garrison for trial. But these conditions were not all. In January, the traders of Pennsylvania, in view of this meeting, had petitioned the superintendent, that he would endeavor to obtain of the Delawares indemnity for the injuries and losses which they had sustained in the destruction of their accounts and papers. Another article was therefore inserted in the treaty, to the effect that they were to give, with the approbation of the Six Nations, to those traders who had suffered, grants of land, by way of restitution. Upon this compensation being given, and provided, also, that they solemnly promised to protect the traders in their yearly journeys, they were guarantied a fair and liberal trade at the principal posts. It was, however, expressly stipulated, that in, case of frauds practiced upon them, they were to lay their complaints before the commanding officer at the post, but by no means, would they be allowed to take the matter into their own hands. In this treaty, the Susquehanna Delawares were also included, upon their agreeing to deliver up within forty days all the prisoners still in their possession. Having thus made their peace with the English, they left Johnson Hall on the fourteenth of May, leaving Squash Cutter and Long Coat as hostages for the return of the captives. The Senecas, also, left two of their principal chiefs for the same purpose.
As soon as the treaty was concluded, Captain Bull and two other
Ohio Delawares were given up to the deputies of that nation. The remaining
prisoners, who had been sent to New York for security, were also brought up,
and placed in charge of the commanding officer at Albany, until the Susquehanna
Delawares, to whom they belonged, had delivered up their captives according
to their promise. Everything at length having been amicably adjusted with
the Ohio deputies, who, by the way, appeared, throughout the entire conference,
desirous of acting cordially and candidly, they were dismissed on the fifteenth,
presents. The other Indians dropped away one by one, until, on the twenty-second, none remained of the vast throng, but the families of the four chiefs who were left behind as hostages, These, however, numbering over forty Indiana, formed quite a little village near the Hall; and having resolved to stay until the release of the chiefs, they were not a small tax on the Baronet's larder. The Susquehanna Delawares were true to their word; and on the nineteenth of June, one of Sir William's interpreters, who had been sent out to collect the captives, returned with twenty-five, having succeeded in rescuing every one, even to the half breeds, the children of intermarriages with the Indians. The unfortunate Squash Cutter, however, did not live to reap the benefit of the good faith of his nation, having a few days previously fallen a victim to that malady, so fatal with the red man, the small pox. Sir William at once advertised for the relatives of the captives, "but," he writes, I believe it will be very difficult to find the friends of some of them, as they are ignorant of their own names, or former places of abode." Indeed, the rescuing of these prisoners seemed, in a few instances, to be a mistaken kindness. Some of them, having, as the Baronet remarks, lost all recollection of their white relatives, and having; moreover, intermarried while in captivity, had formed strong attachments among the Indians. Their ignorance of the abodes of their kindred, and even of their own names, rendered it impossible to identify them, so that the sundering of their newly formed ties of friendship and affection, caused even more mental agony than their original captivity.1
But the hospitalities of Johnson Hall were not always lavished upon the red men of the forest. During the month of June, Lady Susan O'Brian and her husband were the guests and recipients of the courtly courtiesies of the Baronet. Lady Susan was the eldest daughter of Stephen Fox, the first Earl of Ilchester, and a sister of Lady
1 "Treaty of peace with die Delaware Indians."
"Conferences at Johnson Hall with the Six Nations and Delawares, April 29 and May 22nd 1765.
Manuscript letters ; Johnson to Gage, 1765.
Harriet Ackland, whose name has become so identified with Burgoyne's campaign, through the vivid and affecting narratives of General Burgoyne and Madame Riedesel.1 By her marriage with William O'Brian, an actor, in the spring of the previous year, she had alienated her family, and had consequently sailed with her husband for America, arriving at New York in April. The Baronet was advised of their arrival, by her uncle, the first Lord Holland, who, in April, wrote to him detailing the circumstances of the marriage, and requesting his friendly offices for his niece, who had just emigrated to the wild-woods of America. From the letters of Lady Susan, it appears that her host and his housekeeper, did everything in their power to render their visit agreeable, and that the Baronet was equally at home, whether entertaining the rude savage, or the scion of a noble house. Molly Brant is spoken of particularly as a "well-bred and pleasant lady," who, in many a ramble with her ladyship in the greenwood, proved a delightful companion. Nor was this kindly feeling entirely one sided. So much did his highborn guest interest Sir William in her favor, that shortly after Lady Susan and her
1 The correct spelling, and not Reidesel, as it is commonly spelled, this appears from the signatures of herself and husband to several original letters in my possession.
"My Lady Ackland had a tent not far from
our house: in this she slept, and the rest of the day she was in the camp.
All of a sudden one came to tell her that her husband was mortally wounded
and taken prisoner; on hearing this she became very sorrowful. We comforted
her by telling her, that it was only a slight wound, and at the same time
advised her to go over to her husband, to do which, she could certainly obtain
permission and then she could attend him herself. She was very fond of him,
although he was a plain, rough man, and was daily intoxicated. He was nevertheless
a brave officer. She was the most lovely of all women [allerliebste.]
I spent the whole night in comforting her, and then went again to my children
whom I had put to bed. I could not go to sleep, as I had General Frazer and
all the other wounded gentlemen in my bedroom, and I was constantly afraid
that my children would awake, and by their cries disturb the poor dying man,
who often apologized for the trouble he gave me." Extract from Madame
Riedesel's account of the action of the 7th of October, 1777 .
husband returned to New York, he wrote a letter to Lord Holland, begging that the young couple might be again received into the good-graces of his family,-urging among other things, that O'Brian seemed to be a very worthy young man, possessing, in the highest degree, the affections of his wife.1
During the latter part of their stay, the circle of guests was farther increased by a visit from Lord Adam Gordon, afterward commander-in-chief of the army in Scotland, who was then making a tour of pleasure in America. While at Johnson Hall, quite an intimacy sprung up between the entertainer and his guest, and upon the latter's return to England in October, the former sent with him his son John, "to try to wear off," as the Baronet expresses it, "the rusticity of a country education."2
While the Baronet was thus pleasantly entertaining his noble guests, George Groghan was slowly pursuing his journey into the country of the Illinois. It will be remembered, that, by the treaty of 1763, all the territory east of the Mississippi, except the Island of New Orleans, was ceded by France to the crown of Great Britain. In conformity with the terms of the treaty, orders were received, at the close of that year, by the French officers stationed in the Illinois, to surrender their posts whenever British troops should demand their evacuation. When these orders, however, arrived, the English, whose entire energies were absorbed in the war with Pontiac, were in no condition to take formal possession of the ceded territory; and, although at the beginning of the present year, the Indians had been partially brought to terms by the expedition of Colonel Bouquet, and the pacific efforts of Sir William Johnson, yet Pontiac was still at bay in the Illinois, and Gage, therefore, hesitated to occupy that country, until those tribes that were sullenly holding aloof, should
1 Manuscript correspondence of Sir William Johnson and Lord Holland.
2 Manuscript letter. Sir William Johnson to Gage, 1 October, 1765.
be mollified and won over to the English interests. This hesitation had been, moreover, greatly increased by the recent repulse of Major Loftus by the savages, in an attempt to occupy Fort Chartres1 and the adjacent posts, with English garrisons. In the spring of 1764, that officer embarked on the Mississippi at New Orleans with five hundred regulars, but he had proceeded up that river scarcely eighty leagues, when the foremost boat was suddenly emptied by a rapid volley of musketry from the western bank. Terrified at this hostile reception, at once so fatal and unexpected, the prows of the boats were hastily put about, and the survivors retreated in great trepidation to New Orleans.2 This unfortunate attempt having satisfied Gage that no effectual occupation could take place, while the Indians were yet averse to the measure, Croghan was dispatched by Sir William Johnson to the Illinois, with directions to divest the Indians, by persuasion and the judicious use of presents, of their hostile feelings. Accordingly, Croghan, accompanied by Lieutenant Frazer and a few troops as a body guard, set off late in the winter, and arrived the middle of February at Fort Pitt.
At this place, the deputy w&s delayed several weeks, Until the snow, which, as has been observed, had fallen to a great depth during the winter, should be sufficiently melted to allow him to pursue his journey with rapidity and safety, The time thus consumed was not, however, lost. The Shawanese had not yet delivered up their prisoners according to the promise made by them to Bouquet, nor had they, thus far, shown any disposition to send a deputation to Johnson Hall to confer with the superintendent. The escape, moreover, of their hostages from Fort Pitt, justified the suspicion of meditated treachery. In this state of affairs, and aware of the danger which would attend his
1 Fort Chartres was an old French trading post, built in 1720. It was situated in the vicinity of what is now Randolph county, Indiana, about a mile and a half from the Mississippi. The ruins yet remain.
mission-perilous at the best-should the Shawanese relapse into their former hostility, the deputy, soon after his arrival, invited the chiefs of that nation to a council. This precaution was well taken. If the chiefs, before his arrival, entertained a design of again taking up the hatchet, his threats and persuasions decided them against such a suicidal course. They now, not only expressed themselves heartily in favor of maintaining amicable relations, but, on the ninth of May, delivered up at Fort Pitt all the prisoners yet in their possession, amounting to forty-four. Nor did their efforts to prove their sincerity end here. Toward the close of June, four of their deputies, accompanied by a number of Delawares and Mingoes, arrived at Johnson Hall. They were all cordially received by the superintendent, and a treaty of peace having been ratified, on the thirteenth of July, with the Shawanese and Mingoes, the deputation was dismissed with presents.
In the meantime, Lieutenant Frazer, young, impulsive and impatient of delay, started in advance of the deputy, leaving the latter still engaged in Indian conferences. His rashness, however, in thus venturing with but two or three attendants, into the heart of the enemy's country, while Indian relations were in such an unsettled state, had nearly proved fatal. In reply to his threat that an English army was on its way to Illinois, the French traders only laughed; and he himself, having, like Captain Morris, been rescued from death by the efforts of Pontiac, was only too glad to escape to New Orleans.
On the fifteenth of May, Croghan embarked on his perilous voyage down the Ohio, accompanied by fourteen Shawanese and Delawares, and a few whites. If he had any lingering doubts of the friendly intentions of the Shawanese, they must have been dissipated by the following circumstance. While encamped at the mouth of the Scioto river, a party of that nation, in response to a message sent to them a week previously, brought in seven French traders who had been residing among them. There were six more) they said, residing with the Delawares. These they would endeavor also to procure, by prevailing upon that nation to deliver them up. In fact, as they farther told the deputy, they were determined to do everything in their power to convince him of their sincerity, and of their desire for peace. Continuing their voyage, the party reached the mouth of the "Wabash at the close of the sixth day of June, and prepared to go ashore for the night. Warned, however, by the prints of moccasoned feet in the mossy bank, of an ambuscade, they pushed off from the shore, and landed six miles farther down, where they encamped. The Indians were not to be thus baffled. Just at daybreak of the eighth, while the party were yet encamped in the same place, they were assailed by a storm of bullets and arrows from a war party of eighty Kickapoos and Musquattamies concealed in the neighboring thickets. Three Shawanese and two white men were instantly killed, and Croghan and all of his party wounded. Resistance was, of course, useless, and they therefore surrendered, only, however, to be robbed of everything they possessed. Croghan's baggage, even to his paper, was completely destroyed; and he was consequently forced to write his journal upon such scraps of paper as he could pick up during the remainder of his journey.
Scarcely were the captives fairly in the power of the Indians, when the latter suddenly manifested deep contrition for their conduct. "After this," naively remarks Croghan in his journal, "they told us they were sorry for what had happened, that they had been employed by the French, their fathers, who had told them it was Cherokees that were with me, and that there was peace made with the Shawanese, Delawares and Six Nations." How much credit is to be attached to this statement, will ever remain doubtful. It is by no means improbable,-and this by the way, was always the opinion of Sir William Johnson and his deputy-that some of the French traders, conscious that their monopoly of trade in the Illinois was at an end, sought to gratify their revenge by setting the Indians on to Croghan and his party. Many of the traders were unprincipled, base men, who would not have scrupled to resort to anything which would gratify their hatred and malice. Be this, however, as it may, it is certain that when the Kickapoos discovered who it was that they had killed, they not only freed their Indian prisoners, but evinced the utmost fear, begging Croghan to intercede with the Shawanese and Six Nations that the revenge of those powerful nations might be averted.
The prisoners were conducted by their captors up the Wabash to Vincennes, a small French settlement of about eighty houses, and thence to Ouataum, which they reached on the twenty-third of June. At this place, Croghan was met by a messenger from St. Ange, the officer in command of Fort Chartres, inviting him to visit that post, and place matters on a right footing. The condition of his wounds not allowing him to immediately accept this invitation, it was not until the eighteenth of July, a week after the arrival of the messenger, that he was able to set out for the French post. Hardly, however, had he left the fort, when he was met by Pontiac himself, who, advancing from among his body guard of chiefs, frankly proffered his hand to the deputy, expressing at the same time a desire to have a friendly talk. To have appeared to doubt his intentions, would have been madness, and Croghan, at the solicitation of the chieftain, returned to the fort. Pontiac, however, meditated no treachery. Convinced at last, that the French were powerless to further his ambitious designs, he was now sincere in offering the calumet and peace belt to the deputy of Sir William Johnson. He had been deceived he said, by the French. They had informed him that the English intended to take their country from them and give it to the Cherokees, their bitter enemies. They had also told him, that the English would enslave the Indians of the Illinois, all of which had deeply grieved him. More recently, however, he had learned from the Six Nations that all past differences were settled, and he was, therefore, also willing to bury the tomahawk and forever be at peace. The French, he concluded, never claimed any title to the country, and if the English took possession of their forts with the same understanding, they would be welcomed by the Indians with open arms.
A visit to Fort Chartres being now rendered unnecessary by his interview with Pontiac, Croghan, having dispatched expresses to Fort Pitt and Johnson Hall, with news of the successful termination of his mission, set out for Detroit, accompanied by Pontiac and a few of his principal chiefs. The remainder of the journey was without incident, and having collected on his way the English prisoners among the Ottawas and Twightwees, he arrived at Detroit on the seventeenth of August. Here he found awaiting him several tribes of Ottawas, Pottawattamies and Chippewas, and also De Couagne, the Niagara interpreter, with belts and messages from the superintendent to the Ottawa king. Several days were occupied in conferences, in one of which the deputy delivered to all the western nations a road belt, in the name of Sir William Johnson, to open a road from the rising to the setting sun. This was, however, only preliminary to the grand council which was held with Pontiac and the tribes of the Ottawa confederacy on the twenty-seventh. At this meeting, the hatchet was taken out of their hands and burned; the tree of peace planted; and the pipe of peace smoked. They were, moreover, urged to return to their ancient settlements near Detroit, and take care of their council fire as of old. The reply of Pontiac, the following day, is not remarkable for any special eloquence, and is mostly worthy of note from the fact, that while it expressed a disposition to be friendly, it shows that the speaker had consented to peace more from compulsion than inclination. In answer to the allusion to the council fire, he said that they had now settled upon the Miami 1 river, where they could hereafter be found whenever
1 Now the Maumee.
they were wanted,: assigning for this, that should they remain near Detroit, they would always be drunk and quarrelsome. The probable motive, however, was, that the Ottawa chieftain chose not to dwell where he would ever be reminded that his was a conquered race. " I now," he said in conclusion, "deliver my pipe to be sent to Sir William Johnson, that he may know I have made peace, and taken the king of England for my father, in presence of all the nations now assembled; and whenever any of these nations go to visit him, they may smoke out of it with him in peace.
Having wrung from Pontiac a promise to meet Sir William Johnson the next spring at Oswego, there to ratify a lasting peace on behalf of the Ottawa confederacy, Croghan left Detroit the latter part of September, and arrived at Johnson Hall the middle of October. The result of the deputy's mission was highly satisfactory to the superintendent. "Croghan," writes the latter to John Watts, "has succeeded admirably, and to the utmost of my expectation and has left the Indians in such a calm state, as will insure the public tranquility." 1
Upon the receipt of Croghan's letter from Ouataum, announcing that the road was now clear for the passage of the troops, Lieutenant Colonel Reid, the officer commanding at Fort Pitt, dispatched Captain Sterling with one hundred Highlanders of the forty-second regiment, to take possession of Fort Chartres. Accordingly they embarked the last of August; and while they floated down the Ohio on their mission, trade, which ever keeps pace with Anglo Saxon triumphs, was building boats at Fort Pitt, in which to penetrate the heart of the Indian country. The thirty-fifth regiment had also been sent up from New Orleans with the same object; but the Highlanders under Stirling
1 Manuscript letter; Johnson to J. Watts, 30th Oct., 1765. John Watts was, I believe, the father of the old Recorder of New York city, of the same name.
arrived first, and upon the tenth of October, the chivalrous St. Ange yielded into their keeping the last token of French supremacy in the country of the Illinois. 1
1 Croghan's Journal. Letters of Johnson to the lords of trade, 1765. Manuscript correspondence between Johnson and Gage, 1705. ??? This is probably a typo. Mayble 1765.
to James F. Morrison for loaning his book for the purpose of putting it on
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