History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Life of Joseph Brant-Thayendanegea
Indian Wars of the American Revolution
by William L.
Stone. Volume II
Buffalo: Phinney & Co., 1851.
Progress of the war in the South-Fall of Charleston-Brilliant achievements- -Rigorous winter of 1780-Destruction of the Oneida Castle and villages-Third marriage of Brant-Irruption into Harpersfield-Captivity of Captain Harper, Freegift Patchin and others-Conduct of Brant-Consultation whether to put the prisoners to death-Sagacity and firmness of Harper-Marched off for Niagara- Remarkable adventures by the way-Murder of an old man-Cure of the fever and ague-A thrilling scene-Sufferings for food-Justice and impartiality of Brant-Approach to Niagara-The ordeal-Humane device of Brant to save his prisoners from the trial-Arrival at Niagara-Farther irruptions of the Indians- Shawangunk-Saugerties-Captivity of Captain Snyder and his son-Arrival at Niagara-Examination-Guy Johnson, Butler and Brant-Prisoners sent to Montreal-The Mohawk Valley-Bravery of Solomon Woodruff-Irruption to Little Falls-Burning of Ellis's Mills-Incidents on the Ohio-Bold exploit of M'Connel-Attack of Colonel Bird, with his Indians, upon the Licking Settlement-Colonel Clarke takes vengeance upon the Shawanese.
THE succeeding year opened inauspiciously to the American arms. No sooner had Sir Henry Clinton heard of the departure of Count D'Estaing from the Southern coast with the French fleet, than he prepared for a formidable descent upon South Carolina. Charleston was the first and most prominent object of attack. The expedition destined upon this service left New York about the close of January, and in due season the troops effected their landing about thirty miles from Charleston. The object of the enemy could not be mistaken, and General Lincoln made every exertion for the defence of the important post entrusted to his command, by increasing his forces and strengthening his works. Before the middle of April the town was invested by sea and land, and Lincoln was summoned to surrender-which summons with modest firmness he declined to obey. Clinton having succeeded in all his preliminary operations -Tarleton having cut up Colonel White's cavalry on the Santee, and Fort Moultrie having surrendered to the Royal Navy the garrison, finding itself without reasonable hope of relief, proposed terms of capitulation, which were rejected by the British commander. Hostilities were meantime prosecuted with great energy, and after a tremendous cannonade and bombardment, lasting from the 6th to the 11th of May, General Lincoln was forced into a capitulation. His garrison consisted, all told, of about five thousand men of whom no more than two thousand were continental troops. The loss was heavy-including upward of four hundred pieces of cannon.
Having accomplished this object, Sir Henry divided his forces into three columns, dispatching them in as many directions, with a view of overruning the whole Southern states. Clinton, himself, returned to New-York; and then commenced that remarkable course of partizan warfare in the South, which called forth so much of high and chivalrous daring in Marion, Sumpter, and their associates in arms, and which was attended with so many brilliant exploits. There are no more vivid and thrilling pages in American history than the records of those partizan operations, the incidents of which amounted to little in themselves, separately considered; but in the general results they were of infinite importance to the cause of the republic-since the invaders were, in, fact, weakened by every victory, while defeat did not discourage the Americans, who were gaining both moral and physical strength by the protraction of the struggle. But these distant glances are incidental-the North being the main field of research.
devastation of their country by General Sullivan-the destruction of their
houses, as well as their means of subsistence-had driven the Indians back
upon Niagara for the winter of 1779-80-the usual winter-quarters of Brant,
Guy Johnson, and the Butlers-father and son. As had been anticipated by the
American Commander-in-chief, the Indians suffered greatly by destitution and
consequent sickness during that winter, which was one of unexampled rigor
in North America.* But neither the inclemency of the weather, nor the wants
of the Indians at Niagara, prevented them from fulfilling the threat of Sir
Frederick Haldimand against the Oneidas. Their villages and castle were invaded
by the hostile Indians, aided by a detachment of British troops, or more probably
by a corps of Butler's rangers, and entirely destroyed-their castle, their
church, and their dwellings being alike laid in ashes; while the Oneidas themselves
were driven down upon the white settlements for protection and support. They
were subsequently planted in the neighborhood of Schenectady, where they were
* The harbor of New-York was not merely choked with ice for a time during the Winter of 1779-80, but so thoroughly frozen that cannon were wheeled over to the city on the ice from Staten Island.
supported by the government of the United States until the close of the war.*
Aside from the destruction of the Oneida country, it is believed that no important object was undertaken by Thayendanegea until the opening of Spring. It may be noted, however, incidentally, as an illustration of the character of the Mohawk chief, that during tins winter he was married to his third wife, at the fort of Niagara, under circumstances somewhat peculiar. Among the prisoners taken to that post from Cherry Valley, was a Miss Moore, who, being detained in captivity with Mrs. Campbell and others, was courted and married by an officer of the garrison. Thayendanegea was present at the wedding; and although he had for some time previous been living with his wife, bound only by the ties of an Indian marriage, he nevertheless embraced the opportunity of having the English marriage ceremony performed, which was accordingly done by Colonel Butler, acting as one of the King's commission of the peace for Tryon County.
the chief was seldom inactive. The month of April found him on the war-path,
at the head of a small party of Indians and Tories, whom he led against the
settlement of Harpersfield, which was taken by surprise and destroyed. In
consequence of their exposed situation, most of the inhabitants had left the
settlement, so that there were but few persons killed, and only nineteen taken
prisoners. Proceeding from Harpersfield, it was Brant's design to make an
attack upon the upper fort of Schoharie, should he deem it prudent to encounter
the risk, after duly reconnoitering the situation of the fort and ascertaining
its means of defence. The execution of this part of his project was prevented
by an unexpected occurrence. Harpersfield was probably destroyed on the 5th
or 6th of April. It
* There is difficulty in ascertaining the exact time of Brant's invasion of the Oneida towns. Although an important event in the border wars, the author has not been able to obtain dates or particulars. The fact is well known ; and President Kirkland, (son of the Oneida Missionary,) has spoken of the incident several times in his communications to the Massachusetts Historical Society-published in their valuable collections. In one of those communications, Dr. Kirkland remarks that this dispersion of the Oneidas, and the devastation of their country, were greatly detrimental to their nation. When the war came on, they had attained to some degree of regularity, industry, and prosperity. But, driven from their homes, reduced to want, dependence, and abject poverty, their habits became more intemperate and idle than ever, and they never recovered from their depression.
that nearly at the same time, Colonel Vrooman, who was yet in command of Old
Schoharie, had sent out a scout of fourteen militia-minute-men, with directions
to pass over to the head waters of the Charlotte river, and keep an eye upon
the movements of certain suspected persons living in the valley of that stream.
It being the proper season for making maple sugar, the minute-men were likewise
directed to remain in the woods and manufacture a quantity of that article,
of which the garrison were greatly in want. On the 2d of April, this party,
the commander of which was Captain Alexander Harper, commenced their labors
in the " sugar-bush," at the distance of about thirty miles from
Schoharie. They were occupied in the discharge of this part of their duty,
very cheerfully and with good success, for several days, entirely unapprehensive
of danger ; more especially as a new fall of snow, to the depth of three feet,
would prevent, they supposed, the moving of any considerable body of the enemy,
while in fact they were not aware of the existence of an armed foe short of
Niagara. But their operations were most unexpectedly interrupted. It seems
that Brant, in wending his way from Harpersfleld toward Schoharie, fell suddenly
upon Harper and his party on the 7th of April, at about two o'clock in the
afternoon, and immediately surrounded them-his force consisting of forty-three
Indian warriors and seven Tones. So silent and cautious had been the approach
of the enemy, that the first admonition Harper received of their presence,
was the death of three of his little band,* who were struck down while engaged
in their work. The leader was instantly discovered in the person of the Mohawk
chief, who rushed up to Captain Harper, tomahawk in hand, and observed- "
Harper, I am sorry to find you here !" " Why are you sorry, Captain
Brant?" replied the other. " Because," rejoined the chief,
" I must kill you, although we were school-mates in our youth,"-at
the same time raising his hatchet, and suiting the action to the word. Suddenly
his arm fell, and with a piercing scrutiny, looking Harper full in the face,
he inquired--" Are there any regular troops at the forts in Schoharie
* The late General Freegift Patchin, of Schoharie, was one of Harper's party, as also were his brother, Isaac Patchin, Ezra Thorp, Lt. Henry Thorp, and Major Henry. It is from Priest's Narrative of the captivity of General Patchin, that the author obtained the facts of this transaction.
caught the idea in an instant. To answer truly, and admit that there were none, as was the fact, would but hasten Brant and his warriors forward to fall upon the settlements at once, and their destruction would have been swift and sure. He therefore informed him that a reinforcement of three hundred Continental troops had arrived to garrison the forts only two or three days before. This information appeared very much to disconcert the chieftain. He prevented the farther shedding of blood, and held a consultation with his subordinate chiefs. Night coming on, Harper and his ten surviving companions were shut up in a pen of logs, and guarded by the Tories, under the charge of their leader, a cruel fellow named Becraft, and of bloody notoriety in that war. Controversy ran high among the Indians during the night-the question being, whether the prisoners should be put to death or carried to Niagara. They were bound hand and foot, but were so near the Indian council as to hear much of what was said, and Harper knew enough of the Indian tongue to comprehend the general import of their debates. The Indians were for putting them to death ; and Becraft frequently tantalized the prisoners, by telling them, with abusive tones and epithets, that " they would be in hell before morning." Brant's authority, however, was exerted effectually to prevent the massacre.
the following morning Harper was brought before the Indians for examination.
The Chief commenced by saying; that they were suspicious he had not told them
the truth. Harper, however, had great coolness and presence of mind; and although
Brant was eyeing him like a basilisk, he repeated his former statements without
the improper movement of a muscle, or betraying the least distrustful sign
or symptom. Being satisfied, therefore, of the truth of his story, Brant determined
to retrace his steps to Niagara. This he did with great reluctance- admitting
to Captain Harper that the real object of his expedition was to fall upon
Schoharie, which place, as they had been informed, was almost entirely undefended.
He had promised to lead his warriors to spoils and victory, and they were
angry at being thus cut short of their expectations. Under these circumstances
of chagrin and disappointment, it had only beenwith great difficulty that
he could restrain his followers from putting them to death. Brant then said
to Captain Harper, that he
VOL. II. , 5
and his companions should be spared, on condition of accompanying him as prisoners of war to Niagara.
Their march was forthwith commenced, and was full of pain, peril, and adventure. The prisoners were heavily laden with the booty taken from Harpersfield, and well guarded. Their direction was first down the Delaware, where they stopped at a mill to obtain provisions. The miller was a Tory, and both himself and daughters counselled Brant to put his prisoners to death. On the following day they met another loyalist, who was well acquainted with Brant, and with Captain Harper and his party. He assured the former that Harper had deceived him, and that there were no troops at Schoharie. The Captain was, therefore, brought to another scrutiny; but he succeeded so well In maintaining the appearance of sincerity and truth, as again to avert the upraised and glittering tomahawk. On the same day an aged man, named Brown, was accidentally fallen in with and taken prisoner, with two youthful grandsons ; the day following, being unable to travel with sufficient speed, and sinking under the weight of the burden imposed upon him, the old man was put out of the way with the hatchet. The victim was dragging behind, and when he saw preparations making for his doom, he took an affectionate farewell of his little grandsons, and the Indians moved on, leaving one of their number, with his face painted black-the mark of an executioner-behind with him. In a few moments afterward, the Indian came up, with the old man's scalp dangling from between the ramrod and muzzle of his gun.
Having descended the Delaware a sufficient distance, they crossed over to Oghkwaga, where they constructed floats, and sailed down the Susquehanna to the confluence of the Chemung, at which place their land-travelling again commenced. Being heavily encumbered with luggage, and withal tightly pinioned, the prisoners must have sunk by the way, at the rate the Indians travelled, and would probably have been tomahawked but for the indisposition of Brant, who, providentially for the prisoners, was attacked with fever and ague--so that every alternate day he was unable to travel. These interruptions gave them time to rest and recruit. Brant wrought his own cure by a truly Indian remedy. Watching upon the southern side of a hill, where serpents usually crawl forth in the Spring to bask in the sunbeams, he caught a rattlesnake, which was immediately made into soup, of which he ate. A speedy cure was the consequence.
But a new trial awaited the prisoners soon after they reached the Chemung. During his march from Niagara on this expedition, Brant had detached eleven of his warriors to fall once more upon the Minisink settlement for prisoners. This detachment, as it subsequently appeared, had succeeded in taking captive five athletic men, whom they secured and brought with them as far as Tioga Point. The Indians sleep very soundly, and the five prisoners had resolved at the first opportunity to make their escape. While encamped at this place during the night, one of the Minisink men succeeded in extricating his hands from the binding cords, and with the utmost caution, unloosed his four companions. The Indians were locked in the arms of deep sleep around them. Silently, without causing a leaf to rustle, they each snatched a tomahawk from the girdles of their unconscious enemies, and in a moment nine of them were quivering- in the agonies of death. The two others were awakened, and springing upon their feet, attempted to escape. One of them was struck with a hatchet between the shoulders, but the other fled. The prisoners immediately made good their own retreat, and the only Indian who escaped unhurt, returned to take care of his wounded companion. As Brant and his warriors approached this point of their journey, some of his Indians having raised a whoop, it was instantly returned by a single voice with the death yell! Startled at this unexpected signal, Brant's warriors rushed forward to ascertain the cause. But they were not long in doubt. The lone warrior met them, and soon related to his brethren the melancholy fate of his companions. The effect upon the warriors, who gathered in a group to hear the recital, was inexpressibly fearful. Rage, and a desire of revenge, seemed to kindle every bosom, and light every eye as with burning coals. They gathered round the prisoners in a circle, and began to make unequivocal preparations for hacking them to pieces. Harper and his men of course gave themselves up for lost, not doubting that their doom was fixed and irreversible. But at this moment deliverance came from an unexpected quarter. While their knives were unsheathing, and their hatchets glittering, as they were flourished in the sunbeams, the only survivor of the murdered party rushed into the circle and interposed in their favor. With a wave of the hand as of a warrior entitled to be heard-for he was himself a chief-silence was restored, and the prisoners were surprised by the utterance of an earnest appeal in their behalf. It has already been observed that Captain Harper knew enough of the Indian language to understand its purport, though unfortunately not enough to preserve its eloquence. In substance, however, the Chief appealed to his brother warriors in favor of the prisoners, upon the ground that it was not they who had murdered their brothers ; and to take the lives of the innocent would not be right in the eyes of the Great Spirit. His appeal was effective. The passions of the incensed warriors were hushed, their eyes no longer shot forth the burning glances of revenge, and their gesticulations ceased to menace immediate and bloody vengeance.
True, it so happened that the Chief who had thus thrown himself spontaneously between them and death, knew all the prisoners-he having resided in the Schoharie canton of the Mohawks before the war. He doubtless felt a deeper interest in their behalf on that account. Still, it was a noble action, worthy of the proudest era of chivalry, and in the palmy days of Greece and Rome, would have ensured him almost " an apotheosis and rites divine." The interposition of Pocahontas, in favor of Captain Smith, before the rude court of Powhattan, was perhaps more romantic, but when the motive which prompted the generous action of the princess is considered, the transaction now under review exhibits the most of genuine benevolence. Pocahontas was moved by the tender passion- the Mohawk sachem by the feelings of magnanimity, and the eternal principles of justice. It is matter of regret that the name of this high-souled warrior is lost, as, alas ! have been too many that might have served to relieve the dark and vengeful portraitures of Indian character, which it has so well pleased the white man to draw! The prisoners themselves were so impressed with the manner of their signal deliverance, that they justly attributed it to a direct interposition of the providence of God.
The march was now resumed toward Niagara, along the route travelled by Sullivan's expedition the preceding year. Their sufferings were great for want of provisions-neither warriors nor prisoners having any thing more than a handful of corn each for dinner. A luxury, however, awaited them, in the remains of a horse which had been left by Sullivan's expedition to perish from the severity of the winter. The wolves had eaten all the flesh from the poor animal's bones, excepting upon the under side. When the carcass was turned over, a quantity of the flesh yet remained, which was equally distributed among the whole party, and devoured. On reaching the Genessee river, they met a party of Indians, preparing to plant corn. These laborers had a fine horse, which Brant directed to be instantly killed, dressed, and divided among his famishing company. They had neither bread nor salt; but Brant instructed the prisoners to use the white ashes of the wood they were burning as a substitute for the latter ingredient, and it was found to answer an excellent purpose. The meal was partaken of, and relished as the rarest delicacy they had ever eaten. In regard to provisions, it must be mentioned to the credit of Captain Brant, that he was careful to enforce an equal distribution of all they had among his own warriors and the prisoners. All fared exactly alike.
his arrival at the Genessee river, and in anticipation of his own departure
with his prisoners for Niagara, Brant sent forward a messenger to that post,
bearing information of his approach, with the measure of his success and the
number of his prisoners. But it was not merely for the purpose of conveying
this intelligence that he dispatched his avant courier. He had another
object in view, as will appear in the sequel, the conception and execution
of which add a link to the chain of testimony establishing the humanity and
benevolence of his disposition. Four days more of travel brought the party
to within a few miles of the fort; and the Tories now took special delight
in impressing upon the prisoners the perils and the suf ferings they must
endure, in the fearful ordeal they would have to pass, on approaching the
two Indian encampments in front of the fort. This ordeal was nothing less
than running the gauntlet, as it is called in Indian warfare-a doom supposed
to be inevitable to every prisoner; and one which, by direct means, even Thayendanegea
himself had not sufficient power to prevent. The running of the gauntlet,
or rather compelling their prisoners to run it, on the return of a war-party
to their camp or village, is a general custom among the American aboriginals-a
preliminary that must precede their ultimate fate, either of death or mercy.
It is not always severe, however, nor even generally so, unless in respect
to prisoners who have excited the particular animosity of the Indians; and
it is often rather a scene of amusement than punishment. Much depends on the
courage and presence of mind of the prisoner undergoing the ordeal. On entering
the village or camp, he is shown a painted post at the distance of some thirty
or forty yards, and directed to run to, and catch hold of it as quickly as
possible. His path to the post lies between two parallel lines of people-men,
women, and children,-armed with hatchets, knives, sticks, and other offensive
weapons; and as he passes along, each is at liberty to strike him as severely
and as frequently as he can. Should he be so unfortunate as to stumble, or
fall in the way, he may stand a chance to lose his life-especially if any
one in the ranks happens to have a personal wrong to avenge. But the moment
he reaches the goal he is safe, until final judgment has been pronounced upon
his case. When a prisoner displays great firmness and courage, starting upon
the race with force and ability, he will probably escape without much injury;
and sometimes, when his bearing excites the admiration of the savages, entirely
unharmed. But woe to the coward whose cheeks blanch, and "whose nerves
are untrue! The slightest manifestation of fear will deprive him of mercy,
and probably of his life,"
* Heckewelder. " In the month of April, 1782, when I was myself a prisoner, at Lower Sandusky, waiting for an opportunity to proceed to Detroit, I witnessed a scene of this description which fully exemplified what I have above stated. Three American prisoners were one day brought in by fourteen warriors from the garrison of Fort Mclntosh. As soon as they had crossed the Sandusky river, to which the village lay adjacent, they were told by the Captain of the party to run as hard as they could to a painted post which was shown to them. The youngest of them, without a moment's hesitation, immediately started for it, and reached it fortunately without receiving a single blow ; the second hesitated for a moment, but recollecting himself, he also ran as fast as he could, and likewise reached the post unhurt. But the third, frightened at seeing so many men, women, and children, with weapons in their hands ready to strike him, kept begging the Captain to spare his life, saying he was a mason, and would build him a large stone house, or do any work for him that he should please. ' Run for your life,' cried the Chief to him,' and don't talk now of building houses" But the poor fellow still insisted, begging and praying to the Captain ; who, at last, finding his exhortations vain, and fearing the consequences, turned his back upon him, and would not hear him any longer. Our mason now began to run, but received many a hard blow, one of which nearly brought him to
was the scene which Harper and his fellow-prisoners now had in near prospect.
They of course well knew the usages of Indian warfare, and must expect to
submit. Nor was the chance of escape from injury very cheering, enfeebled
and worn down as they were by their journey and its privations. Miserable
comforters, therefore, were their Tory guards, who were tantalising them in
anticipation, by describing this approaching preliminary cruelty. But on emerging
from the woods, and approaching the first Indian encampment, what was the
surprise of the prisoners, and the chagrin of their conductors, at finding
the Indian warriors absent from the encampment, and their place supplied by
a regiment of British soldiers !o There were only a few Indian boys and some
old women in the camp; and these offered no violence to the prisoners, excepting
one of the squaws, who struck young Patchin over the head with an instrument
which caused the blood to flow freely. But the second encampment, lying nearest
the fort, and usually occupied by the fiercest and most savage of the Indian
warriors, was yet to be passed. On arriving at this, also, the Indians were
gone, and another regiment of troops were on parade, formed in two parallel
lines, to protect the prisoners. Thus the Mohawk chief led his prisoners directly
through the dreaded encampments, and brought them safely into the fort. Patchin,
however, received another severe blow in this camp, and a young Indian menaced
him with his tomahawk. But as he raised his arm, a soldier snatched the weapon
from his hand, and threw it into the river. The solution of this unexpected
deliverance from the gauntlet-race was this:-Miss Jane Moore, the Cherry Valley
prisoner whose marriage to an officer of the Niagara garrison has already
been mentioned, was the niece of Captain Harper-a fact well known to Brant.
Harper, however, knew nothing of her marriage, or in fact of her being at
Niagara, and the chief had kept the secret to himself. On his arrival at the
Genessee river, Ills anxious desire was to save his prisoners from the cruel
ordeal-trial, and he despatched the runner, as before mentioned, with a message
to Jane Moore's husband, whose name was
the ground, which, if he had fallen, would at once have decided his fate. He, how ever, reached the goal, not without being badly bruised, and he was, besides, bitterly reproached and scoffed at all round as a vile coward; while the others Were hailed &l brave men, and received tokens of universal approbation."-Idem
Powell, advising him of the fact, and proposing an artifice, by which to save his wife's uncle, and his associates, from the accustomed ceremony. For this purpose, by concert with Brant, Powell had managed to have the Indian warriors enticed away to the Nine Mile Landing, for a frolic, the means of holding which were supplied from the public stores. Meantime; for the protection of the approaching prisoners from the violence of the straggling Indians who remained behind, Powell caused the two encampments to be occupied in the manner just described. It was a generous act on the part of Brant, well conceived and handsomely carried through. The prisoners all had cause of gratitude ; and in the meeting with his niece in the garrison, Captain Harper found a source of pleasure altogether unexpected.
prisoners, nevertheless, were doomed to a long captivity. From Niagara they
were transferred to Montreal, thence to a prison in Chamblee, and thence to
Quebec. They were afterward sent down to Halifax, and only restored to their
country and homes after the peace of 1783. Their sufferings, during the three
intervening years, were exceedingly severe, particularly in the prison at
Chamblee, which is represented as having been foul and loathsome to a degree.*
* In the early part of this narrative of Harper's and Patchin's captivity, the name of Becraft, a Tory, occurs as one of their captors. His conduct toward the prisoners was particularly brutal throughout. On one occasion, when he and his Tory associates were enumerating their exploits, Becraft boasted of having assisted in massacring the family of a Mr. Vrooman, in Schoharie. The family, he said, were all soon despatched, except a boy of fourteen years old, who ran from the house. Becraft pursued and overtook him at a fence which he was attempting to climb. He there deliberately cut his throat, took his scalp, and hung his body across the fence ! After the peace, he had the hardihood to return to Schoharie. But no sooner was it known, than a party of several indignant citizens, among whom were the prisoners who heard him make the confession here given, assembled and seized him. They stripped him naked, bound him to a tree, and ten of them, with hickory whips, gave him a tremendous castigation. They plied the whips with full vigor, and at intervals paused, and informed him for what particular misdeeds they were to inflict the next ten scorpion lashes, and so on. Having punished him thus, they dismissed him with a charge never to show himself in that county again. He never did. Another of these Tories, who were guarding Harper and his party during the same night of their journey, made a yet more horrible confession than that of Becraft. His name was Barney Cane. He boasted of having killed, upon Diamond Island, (Lake George,) one Major Hopklns. A party of pleasure, as he stated, had been visiting the island on a little sailing excursion, and having lingered longer upon The Indians were likewise early busy in other directions.
Some scattering settlements, situated between Wyoming and the older establishments, were fallen upon by them, and a number of persons killed, several houses burned, and eight prisoners carried away.
the Dutch border settlements along the base of the Kaatsbergs, or Catskill
mountains, from Albany down to Orange county, were again severe sufferers
during this period of the revolutionary war. Many of the inhabitants were
friendly to the royal cause, and numbers of them had joined the royal standard.
Some of these served as leaders and guides to the Indians, in parties for
prisoners, scalps, and plunder. This petty mode of warfare was reduced to
such a system, that those engaged in it were supplied with small magazines
of provisions, concealed in the earth and among clefts of rocks at suitable
distances from the western sides of the Kaatsbergs, over to the Delaware,
and thence down to the point whence they were wont to cross with their prisoners
and booty to the Susquehanna, and thence again by the usual track, along the
Chemung and Genesee rivers to Niagara. The sacking of Minisink, and the incursions
into Warwasing, in the preceding year, have already been chronicled. But there
were several irruptions into the Dutch settlements farther north, along the
western borders of Ulster County, in the Spring of 1780, some of which were
marked by peculiar features of atrocity, or of wild adventure. Among these
was an attack, by a small party of Indians and Tories, upon the families of
Thomas and Johannes Jansen, wealthy freeholders in a
that beautiful spot than they were conscious of, as night drew on, concluded to encamp for the night-it being already too late to return to the fort. "From the shore "where we lay hid," said Cane, " it was easy to watch their motions; and perceiving their defenceless situation, as soon as it was dark we set off for the island, " where we found them asleep by their fire, and discharged our guns among them. " Several were killed, among whom was one woman, who had a sucking child, " which was not hurt. This we put to the breast of its dead mother, and so we left " it. But Major Hopkins was only wounded, his thigh bone being broken ; he " started from his sleep to a rising posture, when I struck him," said Barney Cane, " with the butt of my gun, on the side of his head; he fell over, but caught on one " hand; I then knocked him the other way, when he caught with the other hand; " a third blow, and I laid him dead. These were all scalped except the infant. In " the morning, a party from the fort went and brought away the dead, together with " one they found alive, although he was scalped, and the babe, which was hanging and sobbing at the bosom of its lifeless mother."-Gen. Patchin's Narrative.
beautiful but secluded portion of the town of Shawangunk. One of these gentlemen was a colonel of militia. Both had erected substantial stone-houses, and were living in affluence. Their mansions were plundered by Indians and Tories, who were known to them; several of their neighbors and their negroes were made prisoners ; and among those who were slain, under circumstances of painful interest, were a Miss Mack and her father, residing somewhat remote in one of the mountain gorges ; and also a young lady on a visit at Shawangunk, from the city of New-York. From considerations of acquaintanceship with the Jansens, however, the females of their families were not injured, although their houses were plundered and their barns laid in ashes.*
same savage party, or rather a party composed in part of the same band of
Tories and Indians who had committed the outrages just related, fell upon
a settlement in the town of Saugerties, in May of the same year-making prisoners
of Captain Jeremiah Snyder and Isaac Snyder his son. After plundering his
house of provisions and money, they marched the Captain and his son over the
mountains to the Delaware, and thence to Niagara, by the same route traversed
by Thayendanegea and his warriors in conducting Harper and his fellow captives
to that post. The adventures of these prisoners during their rough and wearisome
journey were but the counterpart of those endured a month before by Captain
Harper and his company, excepting that their captors, being acquaintances,
rendered their sufferings less severe. Their -supplies of food, though coarse,
were sufficient. They were pinioned at night, and the Indians lay upon the
cords by which they were fastened to saplings, or other fixtures of security.
They met several parties of Indians and Tories after crossing the Susquehanna,
and on one occasion fell in with a beautiful white woman, married to an Indian.
By all these they were treated kindly. While traversing the valley of the
Genessee, their principal Indian conductor, named Runnip, pointed them to
a couple of mounds by the way-side. " There lie your brothers,"
said he to Captain Snyder, in Dutch. " These mounds are the graves of
a scout of thirty-six men,
* An elaborated narrative of this tragic visitation was published fifteen or twenty years ago by Charles G. De Witt, Esq.
" belonging to Sullivan's army, which had been intercepted and " killed by the Indians."*
On their arrival at Niagara, the prisoners were less fortunate than Harper and his companions had been, since they were compelled to run the gauntlet between long lines of the savages-a ceremony which they looked upon with great dread, particularly on account of their debilitated condition and the soreness of their feet. But in this operation they were favored by their captors, who interposed to prevent injury. In his narrative, Captain Snyder described fort Niagara at that time as a structure of considerable magnitude and great strength, enclosing an area of from six to eight acres. Within the enclosure was a handsome dwelling-house, for the residence of the Superintendent of the Indians. It was then occupied by Colonel Guy John son, before whom the Captain and his son were brought for examination. Colonel Butler, with his rangers, lay upon the op posite, or northern side of the river. At a given signal, the Colonel, with two of his subalterns, crossed over to attend the examination. Indeed, the principal object for the capture of Captain Snyder seems to have been to obtain information. Their examination was stern and searching, but the examiners were unable to elicit enough of news to compensate for the trouble of their taking.
Snyder described Guy Johnson as being a short, pursy man, about forty years
of age, of stern countenance and haughty demeanor-dressed in a British uniform,
powdered locks, and a cocked hat. His voice was harsh, and his tongue bore
evidence of his Irish extraction. While in the guard-house, the prisoners
were visited by Brant, of whom Captain Snyder says-" He was a likely
fellow, of a fierce aspect-tall and rather spare- well spoken, and apparently
about thirty (forty) years of age. " He wore moccasins, elegantly trimmed
with beads-leggings " and breech-cloth of superfine blue-short green
coat, with two " silver epaulets-and a small, laced, round hat. By his
side " hung an elegant silver-mounted cutlass, and his blanket of "
blue cloth, purposely dropped in the chair on which he sat, to " display
his epaulets, was gorgeously decorated with a border" of red." He
asked many questions, and among others, from
* The Indian referred to the company of Lieut. Boyd.
whence they came. On being answered Aesopus, he replied-" That is my fighting ground." In the course of the conversation, Brant said to the younger Snyder-" You are young, and you I pity ; but for that old villain there," pointing at the father, " I have no pity." Captain Snyder was of course not very favorably impressed toward the Mohawk chief, and has recorded his dislike.
The Snyders found many acquaintances at the head-quarters of the Indians and loyalists, some of whom were prisoners like themselves, and others in the ranks of the enemy. From Niagara, the two prisoners were transported by water, first to Carleton Island in the St. Lawrence, and thence, at a subsequent period, to Montreal. At the latter place they were employed at labor, and regularly paid their wages, which enabled them to purchase various little comforts to meliorate their condition. Indeed, they were so fortunate as to fall into the hands of humane people at every stage of their captivity, and their lot was far less severe than that of most of their countrymen in the like situation. At the end of two years, having been transferred from Montreal to an island some distance higher up the St. Lawrence, both father and son, with several other prisoners, succeeded in effecting their escape.*
Mohawk Valley proper, during the Winter of 1780, had enjoyed a period of comparative
repose-interrupted only by the common alarms incident to an unprotected border,
at all times liable to invasion, and the people, as a consequence, feeling
continually more or less insecure. Still, there was not a single demonstration
of the enemy in the lower part of the country, during the cold season, worthy
of note. Among the prisoners taken by the Tories who two years before had
returned from Canada after their families, and who had most unaccountably
been suffered to depart unmolested, was a very brave fellow by the name of
Solomon Woodworth. He was entrusted to a party of Indians, acting in concert
with the Tories on their arrival at the Sacondaga, from whom he effected his
escape on the following day. These Indians, it appears, mortified at his successful
flight, had resolved either upon his recapture or his destruction. Woodworth,
in the Winter or Spring of 1780, was occupying, alone,
* Captain Snyder lived until the year 1827, and his narrative, taken from his own lips, was written by Charles H. De Witt, Esq.
a block-house situated about eight miles north of Johnstown. While thus solitary, his castle was attacked in the dead of night, by a small party of Indians, who set fire to it. Regardless of danger, however, he ran out amidst a shower of bullets, extinguished the fire, and retreated within the walls again, before the Indians, who had withdrawn some distance from the blockhouse, could re-approach sufficiently near to seize him. As the night was not very dark, Woodworth saw a group of the savages through the port-holes, upon whom he fired, not without effect-one of their number, as it subsequently appeared, being severely wounded. This disaster caused the Indians to retire. But Woodworth was not satisfied. Collecting half a dozen kindred spirits, the next morning he gave chase to the intruders, and after following their trail three days, overtook them-they having halted to dress the wound of their companion. The pursuers came so suddenly upon them, as to succeed in despatching the whole number without allowing them time to offer resistance. The little band returned to Johnstown in triumph; and their leader was immediately commissioned a lieutenant in a regiment of nine months men-in which service he had again an opportunity of showing his prowess, as will be seen hereafter.*
was at about the same time that a party of Tories and Indians made a descent
upon the small settlement at the Little Falls of the Mohawk, for the purpose
of destroying the mills erected at that place by Alexander Ellis. This gentleman
was a Scotch merchant, who, under the favor of Sir William Johnson, had obtained
a patent of the wild mountain gorge through which the Mohawk leaps from the
upper into the lower section of the valley. He had himself returned to his
own country; but his mills were particularly important to the inhabitants,
and also to the garrisons of Forts Dayton and Herkimer,-more especially since
the burning of the mills at the German Flatts by Thayendanegea two years before.
Hence the present expedition for their destruction; which was easily accomplished-the
enemy having stolen upon the settlement unawares, and the flouring mill being
garrisoned by not more than a dozen men. Only a few shots were exchanged,
and but one man was killed -Daniel Petrie. As the Indians entered the mill,
* Information from the Rev. John I. Shew, of Northampton, N. Y., residing near the place where the block-house stood.
pants endeavored to escape as fast as they could-some leaping from the windows, and others endeavoring to conceal themselves below. It was night, and two of the number, Cox and Skinner; succeeded in ensconcing themselves in the race-way, beneath the water-wheel-Skinner having previously made fight hand to hand, and been wounded by a cut from a tomahawk. Two of their companions, Christian Edick and Frederick Getman, leaped into the race-way above the mill, and endeavored to : conceal themselves by keeping as much under water as possible. But the application of the torch to the mills soon revealed the aquatic retreat, and they were taken. Not so with Cox and Skinner, who survived the storm of battle, and the mingled elements of fire and water ; the showers of coals and burning brands being at once extinguished as they fell around them, while the water-wheel served as an effectual protection against the falling timbers. The enemy retired after accomplishing their object, carrying away five or six prisoners.*
A few incidents of the more distant border operations of the opening season
will close the present chapter. The Shawanese and their immediate allies continued
to be exceedingly troublesome along the Ohio. Among the single captives taken
by them, by stratagem, early in the Spring, was a man named Alexander McConnel,
of the Kentucky settlers. He found his captors, five in number, to be pleasant
tempered and social, and he succeeded in winning their confidence, by degrees,
until they essentially relaxed the rigors of his confinement at night. His
determination was of course to escape. At length his fastenings were so slight,
that while they were asleep he succeeded in the entire extrication of his
limbs. Still he dared not to fly, lest escape from so many pursuers should
be impracticable, and his life, should he be re-taken, would surely be required
in payment for the rash attempt. To strike them successively with one of their
own tomahawks would be impossible. His next plan was cautiously to remove
three of their loaded rifles to a place of concealment, which should, nevertheless,
be convenient for his own purpose. Then placing the other two at rest upon
a log, the muzzle of one aimed at the head of one Indian, and the other at
the heart of a second, with both hands he discharged the rifles together,
* Conversations of the author with John Frank, Esq., of German Flatts. process two of his enemies were killed outright. As the three
others sprang up in amazement, McConnel ran to the rifles -which he had concealed. The work was all but of a moment. Seizing another rifle, and bringing it in range of two of the three remaining savages, both fell with the discharge, one dead and the other wounded. The fifth took to his heels, with a yell of horror which made the forest ring. Selecting the rifle which he liked best, the subtle hunter pursued his way back at his pleasure.
the 23d of June, Colonel Bird, at the head of five hundred Indians and Canadians,
or American refugees, with six pieces of light artillery, fell upon the Kentucky
settlement at the forks of the Licking river. Taken by surprise, the inhabitants
seem to have made little, if any, resistance. Only one man was killed outright,
and two women. All the others were taken prisoners, the settlement plundered,
and the inhabitants marched off, bending beneath the weight of their own property
for the benefit of the spoiler. Those who sank under their burdens by the
way, were tomahawked. This outrage was promptly and severely avenged by Colonel
Clarke, commanding at the falls of the Ohio, who immediately led his regiment
into the heart of the Shawanese country-laying their principal town on the
Great Miami in ashes, and taking seventy scalps. with the loss of only seventeen
of his own men.*
* Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boon. The British account of Colonel Bird's expedition, as published in New-York, stated that he destroyed several small forts, and made a number of prisoners. " Most of the inhabitants of these new settlements," it was added, " from the extraordinary mild treatment of the Colonel, accompanied him, preferring to settle in the countries under the King to those of the Congress. Several of them have gone to Detroit, Niagara, &c."-Vide Almon's Remembrancer, Part II. 1780, page 347.
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