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'S forces at Oquaga continued to increase. It was evident that he was preparing for some hostile movement. The people on the frontier which he threatened were in terror. General Herkimer, who was an old neighbor and friend of Brant, determined to have an interview with him, hoping perhaps still to influence him to remain neutral, and probably intending to capture the chief if possible. He sent a messenger inviting Brant to an interview with him at Unadilla. He marched to this place with over three hundred of the militia. Brant moved to meet him with some five hundred braves. He encamped within two miles of Herkimer, and sent a messenger to the general.

"Captain Brant wants to know what you came here for," said the messenger.

"I merely came to see and talk with my brother, Captain Brant," answered Herkimer.

"Do all these men want to talk with Captain Brant too?" inquired the Indian. "I will carry your talk back to Captain Brant, but you must not come any farther."

After much sending back and forth of messengers, a meeting between the chief and the general was brought about. A temporary shed was built half-way between the two encampments, and the parties agreed to meet here unarmed. General Herkimer was already stationed in the shed when Brant appeared on the edge of the woods, accompanied by a Tory named Captain Bull, young William Johnson, Sir William's son and Brant's own nephew, another Mohawk chief, and an Indian woman, perhaps Brant's wife. He had also about forty braves with him. He approached Herkimer's party somewhat cautiously, naturally suspecting treachery. He greeted the general, and began to converse, but watched his face with a keen eye.

"May I inquire the reason of my being so honored ?" said the polite chief.

"I came only on a friendly visit," answered Herkimer.

"And all these have come on a friendly visit too?" and Brant eyed Herkimer's companions.

"All want to see the poor Indians ? It is very kind," said the chief, sarcastically.

The general wanted to move forward to the village, but Brant told him that he was near enough, and would not be allowed to go nearer. Herkimer questioned Brant about his feelings and intentions with regard to the war between England and the colonies.

"The Indians are in concert with the king as (heir fathers were," answered Brant, earnestly. "We have yet got the wampum-belt which the king gave us, and we cannot break our word. You and your followers have joined the Boston people against your sovereign. Yet, although the Bostonians are resolute, the king will humble them. General Schuyler was very smart on the Indians in his treaty with them, but at the same time he .could not afford to give them the smallest article of clothing. The Indians have before made war upon the white people when they were all united ; now they are divided, and the Indians are not frightened."

Brant was answered by an American named Colonel Cox. He said something in his speech which angered the Indians. Brant made a signal to his warriors. They ran back to camp, and returned armed. The war-whoop rang through the air, and for a moment there was a great deal of excitement. Meantime Brant was soothed. He peremptorily refused to surrender the Tories in his party, when this was demanded. He agreed to meet Herkimer again on the following morning. White men in Indian warfare often become as treacherous as the Indians themselves. Herkimer must undoubtedly have designed some attack on Brant, had not the chief's force been so great and he himself so guarded in his movements. He now secretly planned with three men to assassinate Brant in the council of the following day, at a given signal. But Brant was wary. He marched up to General Herkimer in the morning with great dignity.

"I have five hundred warriors with me, armed and ready for battle," said he. " You are in my power ; but as we have been friends and neighbors I will not take the advantage of you." Brant gave a signal. Instantly five hundred Indians rushed out of the woods, armed, painted, and yelling the war-whoop.

"Now," said Brant, " General Herkimer, I advise you to go back to your own home. I thank you for your civility in coming so far to see me, and perhaps some day I may return the compliment. Now I will return to my village, and you may rest assured that, for the present, the Indians will commit no hostilities."

It is needless to say that Brant was not assassinated. Herkimer promised to follow his advice, and presented the Indians with some cattle, desiring perhaps to occupy their thoughts. They fell upon the animals instantly and began slaughtering them, while Brant turned and walked proudly away. The morning had been exceedingly clear and lovely, but black clouds now covered the sky and a violent storm burst upon the country.

Soon after this Brant and his Indians removed to Oswego, where Sir John Johnson was concentrating the Tories under his influence. Here the Six Nations were again figuratively invited to eat the flesh and drink the blood of a Bostonian, and here a great council was called. There was at this council much display of the tawdry presents which Indians value so highly. The council was called to encourage the Six Nations to harass the colonists by a border warfare. At the close of the council every Indian was presented with a suit of clothes, a brass kettle, a gun, a tomahawk, a scalping-knife, ammunition, and a piece of gold. Rewards were also offered for scalps.

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