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.
The governor of Canada was prompt in executing the purpose suggested to the Caughnawagas, of striking upon the borders of New England, the people of which he had designated as their most inveterate foes. Indeed the Indians in the French service had not waited for that suggestion, since from the opening of the spring, the whole New England frontier from the eastern border of New York, had been kept in a continuous state of alarm; their hamlets were often in flames; and their fields reddened with blood.
The New Hampshire border being the most exposed, was full of danger at every point. On the thirteenth of April, the Indians appeared at a township called Number- Four,(1) and took three men prisoners, and killed their cattle. Four days afterward a larger party of fifty attempted to surprise the fort at Upper Ashuelot,(2) hiding themselves in a swamp near by with the design of marching into the fort on the departure of the men to their field labors in the morning. But their ambuscade was discovered by a man who went forth very early in the morning, and their purpose frustrated. A skirmish took place in which a man and a woman were killed, and another man taken prisoner. On retreating, the Indians burned several houses and barns. Three days afterward a party of savages came to New Hopkinton, where was a block house guarded by several men. One of these going out very early to hunt, leaving his companions asleep, also left the door open,-a
(1) Since named Charlestown.
very convenient instance of carelessness,-for the lurking savages, who thereupon rushed in and made eight prisoners-four men, one woman and three children. On the second of May, Number-Four was revisited, and a party of women milking some cows, guarded by several soldiers, were fired upon. One man was killed, and two of the Indians mortally wounded by the return fire. Two days afterward, Contoocook(1) was visited by the enemy, by whom two men were killed, and a third taken prisoner. The same hostile party made two prisoners two days afterward at Lower Ashuelot,(2)but lost one of their number in another attempt upon the little fort at Upper Ashuelot. About the same time, a party of savages made an incursion into Bernardstown, in Massachusetts. They attacked a house garrisoned by only three men, but the duty of these was performed so effectively, that the enemy retreated with two of their warriors mortally wounded. On their way through Coleraine they ambuscaded a road near one of the forts, and fired upon a party consisting of a man, his wife and daughter, and two soldiers. The first was killed; and the woman and her daughter wounded. But on losing one of their number by the fire of the soldiers, the enemy made off.(3) On the twenty-fourth of May, a company of troops sent for the defence of the inhabitants, was drawn into an ambuscade in Number-Four, and in a smart skirmish which ensued five men were killed on each side-the Indians gaining the advantage of making a prisoner. A month afterward another spirited affair occurred at the same place. In this instance the dogs were the most vigilant sentinels, but for whom, Captains Stevens and Baker would probably have been drawn into a fatal ambuscade. The Indians having been discovered, the provincial detachment had the advantage of the first fire. After a brisk encounter, the Indians were driven
(3) Hoyt's Antiquities.
away-leaving evidences of considerable loss. Only one of the provincials was killed, but there were five wounded. The bodies of several Indians were afterwards discovered, concealed in a swamp. Guns, hatchets, spears, and other warlike articles, were left by the Indians, the sale of which produced to the victors between seventy and eighty pounds.(1) On the twenty-fourth of June, two men were killed, and two taken prisoners at Fort Dummer. One of the prisoners killed an Indian before he was taken. Three days afterward a party of laborers were attacked in a field in Rochester, only twenty miles from Portsmouth. The men were unarmed. Four of them were killed, and the fifth, wounded, was made prisoner. He was taken into Canada, as the other prisoners had been, being carefully attended to on the way until his wounds were healed. A lad was likewise made prisoner in another part of the town-the men with whom he was at work, making their escape. Yet another man was killed in Rochester soon afterward. On the third of July, an ambuscade was discovered in Hinsdale, but the Indians were put to flight. One mouth afterward, they again revisited Number-Four, and killed two men and several cattle. Two men were surprised and taken on the sixth of August, at Contoocook; and a large party visited Penacook,(2) and formed an ambuscade for the purpose of attacking a congregation while at worship in their church. But observing that the men were well armed with carnal weapons, they delayed an attack until the next morning, when five men were killed, and two taken prisoners.(3) Murders were also committed again in the neighborhood of Fort Dummer; at Hinsdale ; in Winchester, Poquaig,(4) Greenfield ; at Penacook, and in several other places. At Penacook
(1) Manuscript journal of Deacon Noah Webster.
(3) Belknap is the authority for several of these accounts of the border skirmishes of 1746. See also Hoyt's Antiquities.
(4) Afterward called Athol.
five persons were killed.(1) These hostile parties chiefly came from the St. Francis country, through Lake Memphremagog. The prisoners taken were carried into Canada, where some of them died, hut the greater number were subsequently redeemed or exchanged.
But in addition to these partizan operations, painful to neighborhoods, yet more irritating than important in their influence upon the war, there was one of a more formidable character. It has already been seen that the French were concentrating a strong force at Crown Point; and it happened that at the very time when Governor Clinton was opening his conferences with the Six Nations,-a combined force of French and Indians was within so short a distance of Albany, that had the officers and citizens there assembled been aware of the fact, they would most likely have felt rather uneasy in their seats. On the breaking out of the war, the New England colonies had erected a chain of small works-stockades and block houses-along the frontiers of Maine and New Hampshire, from Saco to Charlestown,-thence down the Connecticut river to Greenfield. The old defences at the place last mentioned, and at Northfield, were repaired; and another cordon of similar works was extended from the Connecticut across the Hoosic mountain, to the territory now forming the towns of Adams and Williamstown; thence south through Pittsfield, Stockbridge and Sheffield, at each of which points stockades were erected, and also at Blanford, for the purpose of guarding the principal road from the east to Kinderhook and Albany. The general command of this territory, belonged to Colonel John Stoddart, of the Hampshire militia regiment; but the immediate command of the posts west of Hoosic mountain, was confided to Captain Ephraim Williams, whose headquarters were in a work of considerable strength, called Fort Massachusetts, upon the Hoosic river, within the bounds of what is now the town of Adams. Small but
(l) Hoyt's Antiguities.
active scouting parties were kept ranging from post to post; and such was their vigilance that the Massachusetts border suffered but little during the years 1744 and 1745, save by the two successive incursions of the enemy upon the Great Meadow settlement above Fort Dummer; in both of which a few persons were killed, and a few others carried into captivity. Irritated, however, by the loss of Louisburg, the French, with their dusky allies, became more active, as well as more savage, along the whole border, as the reader has seen in the rapid account just given of their incursions.
But the largest demonstration of the enemy that season, was the descent of Rigaud de Vaudreuil from Crown Point, upon the post already described as Fort Massachusetts, which was invested by that officer about the middle of August, with a force of regular troops and Indians numbering nine hundred and sixty-five men. This was the extreme northwestern post belonging to the colony, whose name it bore, and was commanded, as heretofore stated, by Captain Ephraim Williams. This excellent officer, however, with the greater part of the force under his immediate command, was at Albany at the time of the invasion, having been ordered to join the proposed expedition so long in preparation for the conquest of Canada. Meantime the fort was left in charge of John Hawks, a soldier of approved courage and discretion, but whose rank was no higher than a sergeant. But higher honors were in reserve for him as the progress of history will disclose. The number of men in the garrison, was no more than thirty-five, eleven of whom were sick. This small force moreover was yet farther weakened before it was known that an enemy had arrived to besiege it, by detaching Doctor Thomas Williams, the surgeon, and thirteen men, with directions to make the best of their way through the wilderness to Deerfield on the Connecticut river, for ammunition and other supplies. By this reduction, the sergeant- commander was left with but eleven effective men; and when the great disparity of the respective forces is considered, to say nothing of other untoward circumstances, the defence he made of the post may be regarded as one of the most gallant affairs, of no greater magnitude, upon record. The enemy showed himself before the slender works on the nineteenth of August,-the very day on which Mr. Clinton opened his conferences with the Indians at Albany. The fort was most unfavorably situated for defence, its site having been designated by some one who must have been lamentably deficient in the science of war, since it stood in a low long meadow, commanded by heights in every direction. But although short of ammunition himself, Hawks was aware that the enemy had no artillery, and he determined to defend the post as -long as he possibly could, in the expectation that the advance of so large a body of the enemy must be known very soon at Albany, and the possible hope that a competent force might be detailed from the main army to his relief. But the movement of M. de. Vaudreuil had been executed with such profound secrecy, that nothing of it was known at Albany.
'The enemy commenced his attack at about nine o'clock in the morning, and continued it briskly until the same hour in the evening-approaching at times, within the range of small shot. The fire was returned with vigor and effect from the fort, until about one o'clock past meridian, when the sergeant discovered that his ammunition was so near exhaustion as to require an order that no man should fire save when a fair opportunity was presented of doing execution. Such an order was disheartening; but it was obeyed with advantage as was soon perceptible from the deliberation of every subsequent shot, and the obvious frequency with which they told. The men were sharpshooters, and by singling out their objects among their assailants, many were brought down even at long shots,-some of them falling while standing, as they supposed, in perfect security. Two soldiers of the garrison only were wounded on that day. The fort was entirely surrounded during the night following,-the night itself being rendered hideous by the dismal howlings, and the warlike songs and revelries of the Indians. With the return of light the attack was renewed, and in the course of the forenoon, one of the brave fellows in the fort was killed. At twelve o'clock meridian, the assailants ceased firing, and an Indian was sent forward with a flag to request a parley. The invitation was acceded to, and the sergeant, accompanied by two or three of his comrades, repaired to the head quarters of the French commander, who offered honorable terms of capitulation. Hawks returned with the proposal to the fort, and convoked his little army as a council of war. Prayer for wisdom and direction from above was offered by Mr. Norton, their chaplain, whereupon in view of their exhausted magazine, and the fact that their number was reduced to eight effective men, it was resolved to accept the proffered terms and surrender. By those terms they were to be received as prisoners of war, and to be treated with humanity until ransomed or exchanged,-terms, moreover, which the French commander would not probably have granted, had he known either the weakness of the fort, or of the force defending it. There was also a farther stipulation that the prisoners should not be delivered into the hands of the Indians. The enemy took immediate possession of the fort and ran up their colors; but they nevertheless seemed in equal haste to depart, and actually set the works on fire before they had plundered the cellar of its stores.
The articles of capitulation were not strictly observed by M. Vaudreuil, and several of the prisoners were allotted to the savages, by whom one of them was killed. The others were all kindly treated, both by the French and their uncivilized allies. There were in the fort two women and several children,-to the number of the latter one being added on the second day of the march. But mother and child were kindly borne along by the Indians, and the little stranger brought thus rudely into the world, was baptized by the chaplain. The prisoners were taken to Crown Point, and thence to Canada,-the gallant sergeant being everywhere treated by the French officers as brave men should ever treat the brave. Arriving successively at Chamblee, Montreal and Quebec, they met with numbers of their countrymen in captivity; but they were themselves, for the most part, ultimately redeemed or exchanged, and enabled to return to their own homes. Sergeant Hawks with several of his companions, was shipped from Quebec to Boston. The number of the enemy killed or badly wounded during the siege, was forty-seven. After the capitulation, it was ascertained that the besiegers were lying in ambuscade in the neighborhood of the fort, watching for an opportunity to take it by surprise, at the time of Doctor Williams's departure in quest of supplies on the Connecticut river. They had probably no idea that the doctor's small party of thirteen had constituted more than one-third of the garrison ; and they allowed the little platoon to pass without molestation, in order to prevent an alarm that would have discovered their presence and object. (1)
Remarkable was the conduct of the Indians in this affair toward the prisoners. It is a single bright spot of relief in the generally dark and bloody picture of savage warfare. But there was an episode to the siege and capture of the fort, of a deeply tragic character. Vaudreuil's Indians, numbering about fifty, crossed the Hoosic mountain, with the design of falling upon Deerfield. Having reconnoitred the village, however, an open attack was judged to be imprudent. They accordingly withdrew two miles south, and formed an ambuscade upon the margin of a meadow of newly-mown hay, for the purpose of rushing upon the haymakers when they should come out to their work. Their object was rather to make captives than to kill; and but
(1) My authority for the foots given in the present account of the chivalrous defence of Fort Massachusetts, is the unassuming manuscript journal of Sergeant Hawks himself, for which I am indebted to Dr. S. W. Williams, of Deerfield, grandson of Surgeon Williams mentioned in the text.
for an accident, that object would probably have been accomplished by the seizure of the laborers of two families, with several children, numbering in all ten persona, who came to the meadow in the morning as the savages had anticipated. Alarmed by the discharge of a gun aimed at a partridge by a fowler who happened to be shooting at no great distance from the place of their concealment, the Indians started up, and first killing the fowler, rushed down upon the laborers in the meadow. Those of the latter who were men, being armed, made a resolute stand for their own lives, and the defence of the children. A struggle, vigorous and fierce, ensued; but the disparity of force was great, and three of the men were killed and scalped. A daughter of one of the slain was likewise severely wounded by a blow from a tomahawk, and left upon the field, as dead.;- but she recovered, and lived to an advanced, age. One of the lads fell into the hands of the Indians and was carried away,-the residue of the party making good their escape. (1)
Meantime the summer had passed away, and with it the best season for active operations against Crown Point and the French. General Gooch, who had been commissioned by the crown for the special service of conducting the expedition, had declined the appointment; and the chief command of the forces at Albany, had thus far devolved upon Governor Clinton.(2) With great pains and labor, the Iroquois Confederacy had finally been prevailed upon to take an efficient part in the contest, but there was not yet an immediate demand for their services in a body; although at this late day it seems strange that large numbers of them were not employed in connection with the rangers who had
(1) Hoyt's Antiquities.
(2) Major General Sir William Gooch was lieutenant-governor and governor of Virginia from 1727 to 1749. He sustained an excellent character, and was popular in his administration." He had superior military talents, and commanded a division of the forces in the unsuccessful attack on Carthagena in 1740.
been sent out from Albany to scour the forests, and watch the motions of the enemy at the north. It certainly argues, great negligence, somewhere, that so large a force as that led against Fort Massachusetts by M. Vaudreuil, could have made such a movement, approaching as it did within forty miles of Albany, without the fact being known at headquarters until after the invaders had retired. Yet it appears to have been so. Equally in the dark, moreover, was Mr. Clinton in regard, to the state of affairs in New England; and on the sixteenth of September, timely advices not having been received from Shirley and Warren, the governor, with his council, came to the reluctant decision that the season for active military operations was so far advanced as to render an expedition, even against Crown Point, impracticable, and that nothing more could then be done than to make the necessary dispositions for the security of the frontiers.(l) Four days afterward letters were received both from Governor Shirley and the admiral, the former announcing that he had appointed General Waldo, of Massachusetts, to the command of the northern expedition, in the place of General Gooch.(2) But it was now too late; and the high hopes of the people were dashed with bitter disappointment. The parent government had entirely failed in every engagement. Neither a fleet of adequate force, nor the promised troops under Sir John Sinclair, had appeared ; while the threatened invasion of the New England, coast by France, had placed those colonies entirely on the defensive, and it now only remained for New York, instead of attempting a descent upon Crown Point, to prepare winter quarters for her own levies, and to adopt such measures as would afford the best security to her frontiers.
To this end Mr. Johnson was directed, on his return to the Mohawk castle, to organize war parties of the Indians, and send them to harass the French settlements in Canada.
(1) Manuscript proceedings of the council board.
(2) Manuscript journals of the council board.
But his first efforts were discouraging. Many of the Indians had contracted the smallpox at Albany, and a considerable number of their finest young men had died of the pestilence, either while journeying homeward, or after reaching their castles. It was during their affliction from this at that period appalling disease, that Mr. Johnson was pressing them to go against the enemy; and his urgency, on one occasion, drew a rebuke from a sachem of the Canajoharie clan, that was full of feeling :-"You seem to think that we are brutes," said the first chief; "and that we have no sense of the loss of our dearest relations, and some of the bravest men we had in our nation. You must allow us time to bewail our misfortune."
Nevertheless, early in October, a party of seventy warriors, composed of some from each of the cantons, was made up for the purpose of harassing the Canadian border. Several Englishmen accompanied this party, as well to assist, as to be witnesses of their conduct, under the lead of a son of Captain Butler, of the royal forces. But they had not been out many days before Mr. Butler fell sick of the smallpox, and five of the Indians were obliged to return to carry him back. The residue continued their course, being instructed to avoid the paths and watercourses usually traveled between the English and French colonies, and to thread the woods and cross the mountains in such manner as, if possible, to escape observation. Another small party was sent forth to hover about the precincts of Crown. Point for the purpose of gaining intelligence, and rendering such other service as chance and opportunity might require. After the return of Mr. Butler the first party found it expedient to divide thirty of the Indians, with ten white men, taking one direction, and the residue striking off in another. The first division fell upon a French settlement on the north side of the St. Lawrence, ten leagues above Montreal; killed and scalped four people, and brought away ten prisoners, one of whom was a captain of militia.
Another party of nine Indians entered Canada still nearer to Montreal, and mingled with the Caughnawagas, under the guise of friendship. Their dissimulation was carried still farther, for they allowed themselves to be taken to Montreal, where they had an interview with the governor, and by whom they were dismissed with presents. So well did they play their part that they were entrusted with official dispatches to the commanding officer at Crown Point, and were also charged with letters from officers to their friends at that post. These communications were all delivered to the commanding officer at Albany on their return. They moreover had the good fortune on their way back to surprise a small French defence, in which they killed five men, bringing away one prisoner and one scalp.(1)
But notwithstanding the mortifying failure of all the plans of the year for such a vigorous prosecution of the war as it was supposed must result in the subjugation of Canada, the immense preparations of the French for the reconquest of Cape Breton, and possibly the invasion of New England, were equally abortive, and her high hopes were likewise overthrown. The grand armament destined upon this service has been described in a former part of the present chapter. Its misfortunes were truly remarkable. Indeed before the summer was entirely gone, such accounts were received in Boston of its distresses, as very materially to lessen their apprehensions of an invasion, even if the promised augmentation of Admiral Townsend's naval force at Cape Breton should not be realized. The number of vessels in the French armament has already been stated. Comprised in that number were eleven ships of the line, thirty smaller vessels carrying from ten to thirty guns each, with transport ships conveying land forces to the number of three thousand one hundred and thirty men. To this force a squadron of four ships, under Admiral Conflours from the West Indies, was to be added,- D'Anville, the commander of the whole, being a nobleman
(1) Colden's account of the treaty at Albany.
of high qualities and courage, in whose conduct the utmost confidence was placed. On arriving in Nova Scotia, the land forces were to have been joined by seventeen hundred Canadians and Indians, who were already in arms, awaiting their debarkation. The main squadron of the French, fitted at Rochelle, was ready for sea in the beginning of May, but was prevented by contrary winds from getting out, until the twenty-second of June. This delay seems to have been ominous of the train of adverse circumstances which followed. A series of disasters retarded the progress of the fleet, and weakened its power. The Count did not pass the Western Islands until the fourth of August. On the twenty-fourth, yet distant three hundred leagues from Nova Scotia, one of the ships proving unseaworthy, was burnt. In a storm on the first of September, two ships, one of seventy-four, and the other of sixty-four guns, were so much damaged in their masts, that they were obliged to bear away for the West Indies; and on the fifteenth, the Ardent, also of sixty-four guns, found it necessary to put back to Brest, in consequence of a pestilential fever, which broke out among the crew. D'Anville arrived at Chebucto on the twelfth of September, with but two ships of the line, and only three or four of the transports. One ship only had arrived before him ; and after waiting three days, finding himself joined by only three more of the transports,-and having heard by an intercepted dispatch from Shirley, that the English fleet had arrived on the coast in pursuit of him, although Shirley's information was incorrect,-the admiral died suddenly,-by apoplexy, according to the French accounts, and by poison, self- administered, according to the English. Monsieur de la Jonquiere, Governor General of Canada, an officer of age and experience, was on board of D'Anville's ship, the Northumberland; and having been created a chef d'escade previous to the sailing of the fleet, by the death of the admiral, he succeeded to the command. Two days afterward the vice admiral D'Estournelle, came up with three or four more of the missing ships, and a council of war thereupon called to determine what next should be done. Considering the extent to which their forces had been weakened by such a succession of calamities, equally unlocked for and severe, the absence of many of the regular troops who were on board the missing and disabled vessels, and the sickness of many more among whom the fever was raging with violence, the vice-admiral proposed returning to France. Being strenuously opposed, however, in this suggestion by Jonquiere, and overruled by the council, D'Estournelle fell upon his own sword and died. Jonquiere thought himself yet in a condition to conquer Annapolis-Royal and recover Nova Scotia, and made his dispositions for that object. Most of the sick having died at Chebucto, the fleet sailed thence with the residue on the thirteenth of October; but a violent storm was encountered two days afterward, when off Cape Sable, which continued several days and separated the fleet,-two ships only, one of fifty, and the other of thirty-six guns, remaining in company. These, on approaching Annapolis-Royal, discovered the Chester man of war, the Shirley frigate, and a smaller British vessel, under sail,-whereupon they retired under a press of canvass, to return no more.
Such was the disastrous termination of that memorable expedition from which so much had been expected by France.(l) "Never had so great an armament been dispatched from Europe to North America; and never had any proved more inefficient."(2) The people of New England accustomed to see the hand of Providence in every event of human life, viewed their deliverance as a signal and direct interposition of the deity in their behalf,-by pestilence and storm. "Never was a disappointment more severe on the part of the enemy; nor a deliverance more complete, without
human help, in favor of this country."' Not a single honest effort had been put forth by the ministers for their defence beyond the sending of Admiral Townsend with reinforcements for the squadron of Commodore Knowles at Louisburg; "and these two commanders," says Grahame, "doubtless in conformity with orders which they had received, contented themselves With guarding that harbor from attack, without making the slightest demonstration in support of New England."
Governor Clinton returned to New York early in October, meeting his council in that city on the fourteenth of the same month. Before leaving Albany he had made arrangements for a winter camp at that place, and adopted measures which it was supposed would be adequate to the protection of the frontiers. His detention at the north for nearly three months had been unexpected, and his exertions had been arduous and patriotic. The critical state in which he found the Indian affairs, required the exercise of all the prudence and attention in his power to bestow ; and in their management he had derived but little assistance from the Board of Indian commissioners. Great dissatisfaction had prevailed respecting the conduct of this board; and knowing that the governor's confidence had been withdrawn from them, several members of the commission refused to attend the council, frankly confessing that they had lost all influence over the Indians.(2)
It was in this posture of that important branch of the public affairs, that the influence and services of Mr. Johnson were invoked; and the management of that department thenceforward devolved chiefly upon him.
In addition to all his other duties, the governor had been likewise compelled by the refusal of Gen. Gooch to serve in the campaign, to assume all the cares and responsibilities of military commander-in-chief; and the cares and
(2) Manuscript journals of the council board.
responsibilities, after the arrival of the colonial troops New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland, irrespective of the Indian administration, were by no means light. Environed by difficulties, and limited in his means, contemporary historians have not awarded him that meed of justice to which be was unquestionably entitled for the zeal with which he labored to discharge his public duties.
The general assembly met on the seventeenth of October; and the governor, being indisposed, instead of opening the session in person, sent for the speaker, and through him transmitted a copy of the speech he had intended to deliver to the house,-a procedure which that body, acting under the influence of De Lancey, and not coming together in the best possible humor, voted to be not only unprecedented, but irregular. De Lancey, it will be remembered, on his rupture with the governor, had sworn that he would thenceforward render his excellency's administration uncomfortable; and he made good his oath. "His uncommon vivacity and ease, his adroitness at a. jest, and his condescension to his inferiors, wonderfully facilitated his purposes ;" and it took him not long to infuse such a spirit of factious opposition to the governor that the assembly paused not at measures to embarrass him of the most indefensible character. Still the assembly proceeded to the consideration of the public business. The speech opened by rehearsing the history of the governor's mission to Albany,-the difficulties that had attended, and the measure of success which had crowned it. Owing to misconduct on the part of the commissioners, the Indians, who had been tampered with by the French, had well nigh gone over to them ; but the governor said he had fortunately secured their alliance, and it remained only by judicious measures to retain their friendship. The events of the summer, as connected with the prosecution of the war,-feeble enough in every respect,-were spoken of; and a call was made for increased appropriations for the Indian service, for the construction of additional defences on the frontiers, and especially for the maintenance of a winter encampment in the neighborhood of Albany, for the shelter of the troops destined against Canada, whenever the time for a decisive movement should arrive. In conclusion the speech exhorted the assembly to union and harmony, interposing a caution against the dangers consequent upon encroachments by either branch of the government upon the constitutional privileges of the others.
The speech was a very fair one, and nothing appears upon its face dictated otherwise than by a very proper spirit. Yet such was the temper of the assembly that the speech was like the dropping of a spark into a magazine. The house was instantly inflamed. His excellency's persuasions to harmony excited only to discord;" and in the concluding admonitions against encroachments upon the prerogatives of other branches of the government,-the prerogatives of the crown meaning, -the assembly discovered, or affected to discover, a degree of distrust which incensed them exceedingly. They voted, however, the sum of six thousand five hundred pounds for the subsistence of the winter encampment at Albany; but provided for the transportation of supplies to that city, and no farther,-refusing, in effect, the means for conveying those supplies to the several posts at which they were needed. Farther provision for the subsistence of certain detachments of militia which had been ordered to Albany in May and June, was likewise refused. The governor promptly sent in a message rebuking the legislature for its parsimony, and insisting that when at the preceding session they had voted to provision the forces of the province destined against Canada, they had as a consequence pledged themselves to bear all the charges incident thereto. He told them with military truth " that the provisions for an army are so necessary a part of all warlike enterprises, that any defeat or obstruction in the daily supply of them, might defeat the beet concerted measures; and that if the provisions of an army are not subject to the orders of the commanding officer, it would be in the power of those charged, with furnishing the supplies, to frustrate any enterprise." His excellency therefore required a grant for transporting supplies along with the forces, to whatever parts they might be ordered. The assembly was also informed that there were thirteen hundred and sixty men at Albany, to whom but a portion of their promised enlistment bounty had been paid; and the necessity of making up the deficiency was urged in suitable terms, for the prevention of irregularities and desertions.
This message was referred, nemine contradicente, to a committee consisting of Colonels Phillipse, Morris and Schuyler, with instructions to prepare an humble representation in reply,-the house meantime voting, in addition to the ordinary civil list, only the deficient bounty money. But before the committee had prepared its report, information was received from the commissioners having in charge the purchasing of provisions for the forces, that Henry Holland, late high sheriff of Albany, by order of Colonel Roberts,(1) had broken open the storehouses in that city, and taken thence a large quantity of provisions in their custody for the public service.
The address reported by the committee, was art answer both to the special message, and to the opening speech of the session. The temper of this document was such as might well try that of the governor. In regard to the Indian service, the committee affected ignorance either of a bad disposition on the part of the Indians, or the causes of such disposition if it existed. They said they had voted liberal supplies for this department, and for the customary presents to that people, adding significantly, "in what manner that service has been performed, your excellency, and those whom you have thought proper to employ,
(1) An officer of one of the independent companies, now raised by Mr. Clinton to the rank of colonel in the intended expedition. He had been a cornet of horse at the accession of George I., and was connected, by his first marriage, with the earl of Halifax. His second wife was the daughter of that Mr. Harrison who had so deep a share in the fueds of Cosby and Van Dam.--Smith.
can certainly best determine." In respect to the alleged mismanagement of the Indian department, the address avowed the readiness of the assembly to enter upon a full investigation, -whenever the governor should communicate to them all the papers and documents connected with that branch of the public service since the commencement of his excellency's administration,-until which time no larger sum than usual would be voted for that department, lest there should be further misconduct. The winter encampment was disapproved of, as being calculated to retard rather than facilitate the meditated invasion of Canada. The soldiers could not be made comfortable in the climate of Albany, and sickness and desertion would be the consequences of attempting to keep them there. The address declared that larger appropriations had been voted than even the king had expected. The imputation of parsimony was therefore repelled ; as also was the intimation that the most perfect harmony did not exist between the different branches of the legislature. It was farther declared that the assembly was to guard against the private views of any artful or designing men; and they should be sorry to find that any such men could prevail upon his excellency to break that harmony so necessary for the public welfare;-adding, that if any such persons had been infusing such distrust into his excellency's mind, they must have had sinister ends in view, and could be no friends to their country. Disclaiming any designs to encroach upon the prerogatives of others, it -was said that although collisions had happened in former times, yet they had arisen from the bad advice given by designing men to the governors, rather than from any wanton stretch of power by the people. In regard to the transportation of the army supplies, the address vindicated the action of the assembly, declaring "the circumstances of the colony would not suffer them to take one step farther;" but the committee nevertheless concluded their report with an assurance that as far as was consistent with the duty they owed his majesty, they would always endeavor to make his excellency's administration easy. This last declaration was a mere nourish of rhetoric, hollow and insincere.
The address was presented to the governor on the fifth of November. Three days afterward the committee to which had been referred the complaints of the commissioners of supplies touching the conduct of Roberts and Holland, in breaking open the stores of the commissariat : at Albany, brought in their report. The documentary history of the controversy upon this subject is long. In brief, however, it appeared that in order to supply the deficiency in the number of state levies caused by sickness, desertion, and death, the governor had annexed to these forces four companies of independent fusileers, the supplies for whom did not fall within the precise letter of the act of appropriation. The commissioners of purchases had consequently refused to issue provisions for these four companies, in the face of an express order of the governor. When, moreover, the forces at Albany were ordered to march for the carrying place en route to Crown Point, the commissioners refused to convey the provisions to the place designated, and to other frontier points also, for their subsistence. Under these circumstances, having an order from the governor to meet the contingency, issued under a special impressment act of the general assembly, Roberts and Holland took the responsibility of taking the necessary supplies from the store houses themselves,- Doctor Colden, one of the governor's council, having sanctioned the procedure, after in vain threatening the commissioners with removal from office as a punishment for their contumacy. But it has been seen that under the influence of Mr. DeLancey, the assembly was rife for a quarrel with the governor; and a resolution was passed censuring him in the first instance for the warrant that had been issued for the subsistence of the fusileers. A second resolution was adopted approving of the conduct of the commissioners; a third, declaring the warrant of Colonel Roberts to Holland, directing him to open the stores for supplies to be arbitrary and illegal; a fourth, declaring both Roberts and Holland guilty of a high misdemeanor; a fifth, declaring the breaking of the storehouses, and the seizure of the provisions, to be a manifest violation of the rights and liberties of the subject; a sixth, declaring that Holland was guilty of a high crime and misdemeanor for breaking the storehouse; a seventh, declaring it a high misdemeanor for any person in authority to attempt by threats to influence any officers appointed by law to violate their duty ; an eighth, applying the last mentioned resolution expressly to Cadwallader Golden, and declaring him guilty of the crime charged; a ninth, declaring that it would be in vain for the assembly to vote farther supplies until an effectual stop should be put to such proceedings ; and a tenth, calling upon the governor to direct the attorney-general to prosecute the delinquents.
Mr. Clinton replied to the address of the house of the fifth of November, on the tenth, with firmness and energy, exhibiting more of dignity, and less of imitability than might have been expected under the circumstances of the case from his choleric temperament. He had supposed the bad feeling of the Six Nations, and the misconduct of the Indian commissioners, matters of too great notoriety to require special averments or commentaries in his opening speech. But in order to the better understanding of the case by the assembly, he had ordered copies of the documents which they had intimated a desire to examine, to be laid before them, whenever it might suit them to make the call. Had they asked for information respecting the military transactions at Albany, before expressing their dissatisfaction with those transactions, the governor suggested that they might possibly have formed different opinions, or arrived at different conclusions in regard to them. His excellency censured the house for having given publicity to their address; expressed his regret that his recommendations for a good agreement among the different branches of the government in times of danger should have given offence ; and renewed his protestations of a sincere desire to cultivate a spirit of harmony in his administration. "And now gentlemen," he added, "I think this is an occasion on which I may be allowed to tell yon, that within the six months last past, I have gone through with more difficulties, I have had less assistance, and I have done more for this province, than I believe any governor of New York has done before me; I feel in my own heart my zeal for my king and my country's service; and therefore I can with pleasure lay the account of my administration at his majesty's feet. Meantime I shall to the utmost of my power, be careful of the rights and liberties of every man under my government. I shall be more especially careful of the preservation of your privileges; and at the same time to preserve that part of his majesty's authority entrusted to me."
This message, however, having been prepared in answer to the proceedings of the assembly of the fifth of November, formed of course no answer to the resolutions of the eighth, respecting the seizure of the provisions at Albany by Roberts and Holland, and demanding the arrest and trial of those officers. Indeed it is most likely that those resolutions had not been communicated to the governor in form when this message was delivered, the tone of which was not calculated to allay the already excited feelings of the legislature. A recess of ten days, from the fourteenth to the twenty-fourth of November, was allowed; and on reassembling of that body, a message was in readiness to meet them, extended and elaborate, answering the resolutions of the eighth seriatim, and justifying the proceedings at Albany, which, his excellency declared, had been directed by himself and his council under the pressure of the utmost necessity.
Viewing the transactions in question at this length of time, although the commissioners entrusted by the assembly with the supplies, whose duty it was to deliver them out, and the assembly which sustained their course, had the advantage of the popular side of the controversy, yet it seems equally certain that those commissioners acted in a manner greatly embarrassing to the public service ;-for what substantial reason does not appear. Mr. Clinton, in obedience to the orders of the crown, and in concert with Governor Shirley and Admiral Warren, had planned what was intended to be a final and decisive descent upon Canada, -the conquest of which was indispensable to the security and repose of the English colonies,-for which purpose the forces had been collected at Albany. In October they were ordered to advance to the carrying-place between the Hudson river and Lake Champlain,-to which point the commissioners of subsistence were requested to forward the necessary supplies from the store houses in Albany. The request was refused under the flimsy pretext that they were not in funds that could be applied to that purpose. Those commissioners were John Cuyler and Dirck Ten Broeck. On being demanded by Colonel Roberts whether they would deliver the provisions, should the means of transportation be provided, they refused because they had no power, as they alleged, to comply. The colonel then demanded whether they would deliver the provisions to a commissary, or to the quartermasters, under the warrant of the governor, to be receipted for. This request, right in itself, and reasonable withal, was also refused, upon the mere technical pretext that by the act of the assembly they were allowed to deliver supplies "only to the captains." All these excuses were obviously evasions. The Schuylers, whose interest was powerful, were offended because Mr. Johnson was rising into favor in the Indian department. De Lancey, who had been succeeded in the governor's affections, by Colden, was implacable; and he was omnipotent with the assembly, of which body the commissioners were the agents. Hence it was the policy of each of these interests to embarrass, rather than to strengthen, the commander-in-chief. Yet the frontiers must be protected; and the orders to Colonel Roberts were peremptory to move his forces northward to the carrying-place. A council of war -was held after the refusal of the commissioners to move the provisions, consisting of Lieutenant-Colonels Roberts and Marshall, and Majors Clarke and Rutherford,- the latter officer being also one of the executive council,-at which it was determined, as the only alternative in the emergency, to make use of a warrant granted in anticipation of some such act of contumacy, authorizing the impressment of the necessary supplies from the colonial stores, giving a receipt for the same, and taking all proper measures to guard against waste or extravagance. The case was stated with all frankness and candor in the message, yet without asperity. But, although under the circumstances then existing, it is difficult to perceive what other course could have been adopted on the instant of the emergency, the governor's explanations nevertheless gave no satisfaction to the assembly, as was made fully to appear by the resolves passed two days afterward. In addition to the declaration of dissatisfaction, it was resolved that no further supplies should be voted while the abuses of which they complained were openly avowed and encouraged. A thrust was likewise aimed at Doctor Golden, who had concurred in the proceedings of Colonel Roberts, and who had doubtless advised, if he had not prepared, the vindictory message, by a resolution declaring " that whoever had advised the said message, had endeavored to create jealousies and dissensions among the several branches of the legislature ; had encouraged a manifest breach of the laws of the colony; and were enemies to the constitution thereof." But notwithstanding the attitude thus assumed, the assembly still avowed its readiness, as soon as proper assurances were given that the alleged abuses should be effectually prevented, to vote an ample allowance for the subsistence of the forces.
Mr. Clinton was either alarmed at the resolutions, or else he judged it no suitable time for a controversy. His message in reply was conciliatory if not yielding. He only required that for the future, the provisions for the army should he delivered out agreeably to the existing engagements of the assembly, in which case nothing hat had happened could or should happen again. He also pledged himself that all possible care should be taken of the provisions, and exact accounts rendered. This advance had the effect of allaying the storm, and the assembly applied itself to its duties in a spirit that encouraged the governor to call for additional supplies for the maintenance of artizans among the Senecas, and also for bounty money for female scalps-bounties being allowed only upon the scalps of males by the existing laws. The immediate cause for preferring this request,-so abhorent to the feelings of the present day,-was the fact that a party of the Six Nations had recently brought in three female prisoners from Canada, and one female scalp. Evidence was thus afforded that the Confederates had at length engaged heartily in the war; and the governor thought they should be encouraged in the manner proposed. The same message also demanded supplies for Oswego, and announced that Mr. Johnson had become the contractor for that post,-with a stipulation that no higher charges should be made in time of war, than it had been usual to pay in time of peace. Heed was taken of these requisitions, and the necessary supply bills both for the civil and military service, were passed.(l) An act was also passed authorizing a lottery to raise two thousand two hundred and fifty pounds for founding a college In the city of New York. This was the first step taken toward the establishment of Kings, now Columbia College,-so far behind the colonists of New England were those of New York, on the great subject of education.(2)
It was now the fourth, of December, and the general assembly was drawing its session to a close, Mr. DeLancey, however, could not allow the session to terminate without making another demonstration against his rival, Doctor Colden. On the day last mentioned, the chief justice called the attention of the legislative council to a pamphlet giving an account of the Indian negotiations at Albany, of which so much has already been said in the present chapter, wherein it was set forth that although the governor had requested the members of his council to attend and assist in those negotiations, three only had complied with the request, viz: Messrs. Colden, Livingston, and Rutherford. According to that narrative, therefore, his excellency had been left to act with the smallest number of counselors that could constitutionally form a board. Mr. DeLancey considered this statement a reflection upon the non-attending councilors, and moved that the printer of the pamphlet be summoned to the bar, to answer as to its authorship. An animated debate ensued upon the motion, in the course of which Dr. Colden averred the authorship, and assumed the responsibility of its publication. Messrs. DeLancey, Horsmanden and Murray, successively uttered some animadversions upon the pamphlet; and on the motion of the former, a vote of censure was adopted, denouncing the offensive passage as a misrepresentation of the facts, and an invidious reflection upon those members of the council who did not accompany the governor to Albany.
(1) Manuscript letter from Johnson to Capt. John Catherwood, acknowledging receipt of advices that the assembly had by resolution approved of the governor's recommendation that he (Johnson) should supply the troops at Oswego. Thanks the governor, and promises to act with energy, &c.
(2) This was at the distance of more than one hundred and twenty years after the discovery and settlement of New York, whereas the colonies Massachusetts and Connecticut had commenced their institutions of classical learning very soon after planting their colonies. Smith, the historian, states that for many years within his recollection the only academics in the colony of New York, except such as were in holy orders, were Mr. DeLancey a graduate of Cambridge, England, and Mr. Smith, (the historian's father,) who was at the bar. At the time even, now under examination, there were not above thirteen graduates in the colony, excluding the clergy. Except Mr. DeLancey, there was then no graduate of a college upon the bench, or in either of the branches of the legislature. The practice then, even of the most opulent of the citizens, whose attention was generally engrossed with commerce, was to send their sons directly from the writing school to the counting room, and thence to the West Indies.
The session closed on the following day. No events of public or political importance occurred within the province of New York during the residue of December; nor did the enemy after the capture of Fort Massachusetts, harass the northern border any more during this year.
Meantime, Mr. Johnson was growing rapidly in the favor of the governor, to whom he paid a visit in New York toward the close of the autumn. I have not been able to discover the date of Johnson's elevation to the military rank of colonel; but it must have been at about the period of time now under review. He had a brother, Warren Johnson, a captain in the royal service, who had recruited a company in Boston that year. The captain wrote to his brother William, on the ninth of October, that his uncle Warren, (the admiral,) was on the eve of sailing for Louisburg, and that his lady was preparing to return to New York to pass the winter. On the tenth of December, the captain was in New York on his way to the Mohawk country to visit his brother. By his hand, under the last- mentioned date, governor Clinton addressed a letter " To Colonel William Johnson, at Albany." This is the earliest document I have found among the Johnson manuscripts superscribed with a military title. The letter, the main purpose of writing which was to request the colonel to purchase for his excellency a pair of black stallions, contained the following passage :-"This comes by your brother. I hope he will find you well. I hear nothing of news but what he will tell you. I have recommended you to his majesty's favor through the duke of Newcastle. I must desire you will keep up the Indians to their promises of keeping out scouts to watch the motions of the French." From this letter, therefore, it is probable that Clinton had just then commissioned Mr. Johnson as a colonel, subject to the approbation of the crown.
The operations of the New Englanders in Nova Scotia, ended disastrously. The French and Indian forces, whose purpose it was to cooperate with the fleet of the Count D'Anville, did not retire from that peninsula on the dispersion of the fleet, and General Shirley judged it necessary to send a body of provincials, to dislodge them. The levies from Massachusetts, -with the exception of those on hoard of one of the transports which was wrecked, arrived at Annapolis in safety, as also did two hundred of the New Hampshire troops. One of the New Hampshire transports, after a blundering cruise in the Bay of Fundy, was decoyed to a French sloop, and the crew captured. The Rhode Island levies did not reach their place of destination, their vessels being wrecked. In the course of the winter, the Massachusetts forces at Annapolis being inferior in numbers to the enemy, yet deceived as to the extent of the disparity, were drawn into the field by false representations, and defeated, after a severe engagement, in the midst of a driving snowstorm at Minas. Col. Arthur Noble, with about sixty men, was killed, and there were fifty wounded, Noble's army did not exceed six hundred men ; and the survivors of the battle, unable to escape, were compelled to capitulate. Chevalier Ramsay commanded the French; but notwithstanding his victory, he did not venture to attack Annapolis, nor did the French inhabitants yet move in their meditated revolt.(l) The posts on the western border of New Hampshire, had been guarded by troops from Massachusetts; but inasmuch as those posts were without the jurisdiction of the colony, the garrisons were withdrawn late in the autumn. The settlers along that border, being left thus exposed, fell back upon the larger towns-taking away such of their goods as they could remove, burning such as could not be concealed in the earth without damage, and leaving the residue exposed to the ravages of the enemy. But the enemy was not active during this winter, and its deep repose in the forests of the north was only broken once, by an attack of the Indians upon Fort Hinsdale, occupied only by six families, by the stalwart hands of which the post was successfully defended.
(1) Belknap, Grahme, Hutchinson, Hoyt.
Thanks to James F. Morrison for loaning his book for the purpose of putting it on the internet.
Copyright © 1998, -- 2003. Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.