Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

Border Wars

by Elizabeth Eggleston Seelye
Assisted by Edward Eggleston
New York
Dodd, Mead and Company, Publishers, 1879.



BRANT was but thirteen years old at the beginning of that war between the French and English colonies which resulted in the conquest of Canada. Four expeditions were undertaken in 1755 on the part of the English, one to secure the boundary line as the English desired it in Nova Scotia, another to conquer the Ohio Valley from the French, still another to take the French Fort Niagara, and the last to reduce Crown Point on Lake Champlain. The command of this last expedition was to be given to Colonel Johnson on account of his intimate knowledge of the Indians of the Six Nations, who were to be used as allies. Johnson had some time before this resigned the superintendency of the Indians on account of troublesome jealousies, but he had still continued to use his great influence over them for good. The Iroquois were, however, greatly dissatisfied that their favorite Warraghiyagey, as they called Johnson, was not allowed to manage their affairs. Again and again they requested that he might be reinstated in his former position. Finally the Mohawk chief Little Abraham rose in council, and said that for three years the Indians had desired that Johnson might again have charge of the management of their affairs; that the Governor of New York had promised to tell the king of their desire, and that they had heard nothing more of it. He now laid a belt of wampum before the English, repeating the request; " For," said Little Abraham, " we all lived happy while we were under his management, for we love him and he us, and he has always been our good and trusty friend." Just as he was taking his seat the chief said sarcastically: " Brethren, I forgot something. We think our request about Colonel Johnson, which Governor Clinton promised to convey to the king our father, is drowned in the sea."

When the French war broke out Johnson was again made Superintendent. He immediately sent wampum belts to all the fortified towns, or castles as they are frequently called, of the Six Nations. The belts were accompanied by a message calling the Indians to a council with Warraghiyagey at Mount Johnson. The Iroquois were delighted when they heard that Johnson again had charge. More than eleven hundred of them crowded to his house. Johnson had not expected so hearty a response to his invitation, and he had difficulty in providing for so large a company. Some of the Indians who came to the council were disaffected, and had listened to the insinuations of the French agents who were always busy among them. In his opening speech Johnson figuratively removed the embers from the previous council-fire at Albany, with which he rekindled "the fire of council and friendship" at Mount Johnson; " and this fire," said he, " I shall make of such wood as will give the clearest light and greatest warmth, and I hope it will prove comfortable and useful to all such as will come and light their pipes at it, and dazzle and scorch all those who are or may be enemies to it."

After several days of preliminary talking, for the Indians are very slow in their deliberation on such occasions, Johnson delivered his war-speech to the Iroquois, in which he moved them after the manner of one of their own orators. The great assemblage had been called together by the firing of two cannon. On the table before Johnson lay four great volumes of Indian records. " These," said he, " are the records of the many solemn treaties which have passed between your forefathers and your brothers, the English. They testify that upon our first acquaintance we shook hands, and, finding we should be useful to one another, entered into a covenant of brotherly love and mutual friendship." He then asked every Iroquois present to put his hand on his heart and answer which had always been the friends of the Five Nations, the English or the French. " If you can be one moment in doubt," said Johnson, " I must tell you you will not act like those brave and honest men whom you call your forefathers, but like Frenchmen in the shape of the Five Nations." He appealed to them to stand by their brothers, the English, and not to break that covenant chain by which, in Indian figure of speech, the Five Nations were bound to their ancient friends. " If you desire to treat me as a brother," said Johnson, " go with me. My war-kettle is on the fire, my canoe is ready to put in the water, my gun is loaded, my sword by my side, and my axe is sharpened." By such appeals Colonel Johnson had wrought his audience into a frenzy of enthusiasm. When he threw down the war-belt it was eagerly picked up by the Indians, who thereupon began the war - dance. At Colonel Johnson's order, a great tub of punch was now brought into the midst of the council, and the Indians drank to the health of the king. Doubtless Brant was among them, his boyish ambition to be a great warrior fired by the speeches of Colonel Johnson, who had already taken notice of the promising boy.

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