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.



CARLETON was censured by bitter partisans on the English side for having damped the zeal of the Indians in not allowing the savages to pass the border of Canada. A different policy was inaugurated, and a cruel border warfare began. The small bands of the Oneidas and Tuscaroras remained friendly to the United States. But the strength of the Six Nations followed Brant, and the famous confederacy was thus rent in two. It was announced that the council-fire at Onondaga was extinguished.

Brant was gathering his forces at the Indian town of Oquaga, on the Susquehanna, in 1777. The settlers on the Mohawk trembled. Colonel John Harper, one of four brothers who had founded a settlement called Harpersfield, was sent to find out the intentions of the warriors. Taking a white man and an Indian with him, he visited Oquaga. The Indians with characteristic duplicity said that their intentions were peaceful, and that they were very sorry for the country's troubles. In a few months after this, however, Brant ascended the river to Unadilla with a band of eighty warriors, and called upon the militia officers and the minister to furnish him provisions. He said that if the provisions were not given to him peaceably he would use force.

" The Mohawks always were warriors," said Brant, when questioned as to what were his intentions. " Our agreement with the king is very strong, and we are not such villains as to break our word."

Nothing remained for the scattered settlers but to furnish the provisions Brant had demanded, but when he was gone they fled to a more populous country. Many of the people at the outposts, of frontier settlements had taken refuge at Cherry Valley. Here the settlers, to protect themselves, threw up an embankment of logs and earth around the largest house of the neighborhood and its barns, and built also two small block-houses within the enclosure. Those who were either too young or too old to go into service elsewhere formed themselves into a company for the protection of the settlement, while even the boys paraded with wooden guns. Meantime Brant at Oquaga, planned an attack upon Cherry Valley. He approached the settlement with his Indians one bright May morning, and took an observation from the distant woods. It happened just at this moment that the boys of the settlement were parading in front of the rude fort with their wooden swords and guns. Brant mistook the amateurs for real soldiers. He with his party moved to a hiding-place along the roadside, hoping to intercept some one who would give him information. At the spot he had chosen the road wound along the edge of a precipice a hundred and fifty feet deep. In this wild chasm was a waterfall called by the Indians Tekaharawa. That morning Lieutenant Wormwood, a rich young gentleman from the Mohawk, had come over to Cherry Valley to tell the inhabitants that reinforcements were to be sent for their defence. He attracted much attention at the settlement, being dressed in a suit of ash-colored velvet. As he started away he threw down his portmanteau, saying that he would not take it, as he would be back there the next day with his regiment. He was accompanied on his return by a man named Peter Sitz, who bore dispatches. A crowd watched the two men as they rode away from the settlement. As they neared the wild ravine of Tekaharawa Brant hailed them, but instead of answering they put spurs to their horses and tried to pass. Then it was that the people at the village heard the crack of musketry. The young man fell dead, shot down by Brant, while Sitz's horse was shot from under him. The Indians rushed out and captured the messenger, while Brant scalped the young officer. Sitz had been provided with double dispatches, and he had the presence of mind to deliver the false ones to Brant. By means of these Brant was fortunately deceived as to the strength of Cherry Valley and retired. It is said that the chief regretted the death of the young man, as they had formerly been friends. He had fired upon him supposing him to be an officer of the Continental army.

Lieutenant Wormwood's horse returned to the settlement with blood upon the saddle, and his body was found behind a rock on the roadside, and this is all the settlers knew of the affair. Indians of course were the slayers, but it was not yet known in the settlement that Brant had committed any act of hostility.

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