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.



RED JACKET was some years younger than Brant, having been born about 1750. His birthplace is said to be on the site of the present town of Geneva, at the foot of Seneca Lake. There has been no effort made, as in the case of Brant, to claim " noble descent" for Red Jacket. He came of an ordinary Indian family, and doubtless was regarded with little hope of future glory by his parents. For he was remarkably small and insignificant for an Indian. But like many men who are physically deficient, Red Jacket made up for it in an immense conceit. He showed no predilection for war. Indeed, he did not go upon the war-path until the invasion of his country, when he was twenty-nine years of age, forced every Iroquois man to defend his home. Red Jacket was a remarkably swift runner. In his, youth he was called Otetiani, or " Always Ready." He was employed a great deal among his people as a messenger. He was also very successful in hunting because of his swiftness.

During the war of the Revolution, Red Jacket made himself very useful to the British officers as a messenger. He was doubtless the more so because of his intelligence and gift for oratory. In. return for his services the officers presented the young man with a scarlet jacket, very richly embroidered. One can imagine the immense pride. with which Otetiani donned this brilliant jacket, and which gave him the name by which he is best known. He took such delight in the garment and in the name that he was kept in red jackets as fast they were worn out, during the Revolution\ary war. And after the war, when the Americans wished to gain his favor, they gave him a red jacket.

Brant and Red Jacket were essentially opposites in every regard. Brant was a Mohawk, Red Jacket was a Seneca, from the opposite end of the " Long House." Brant was tall, muscular, and inclined to corpulency, with a large bright eye and broad lower forehead; Red Jacket was small and wiry, with little sharp eyes looking out from beneath frowning brows, and a towering forehead. Brant was at least the grandson of a chief, connected with the powerful Johnson family, reared under Sir William's influence, educated among the whites, a member of the Episcopal Church, and a gentleman in his bearing ; Red Jacket was an Indian of the Indians, hated civilization, could speak English but very imperfectly, detested education and Christianity, and made no pretence at conforming to the polite customs of white society. Above all, Brant was proud. He had gained his influence through his gifts as a warrior, and could afford to be frank and truthful. Red Jacket, on the other hand, was vain and lacked courage, He was very smart, and he had no scruples as to what means he used to gain influence among his people. They were both great men among the Indians of the Six Nations, they were both patriotic, and they both loved their own people and customs, and preferred them to those of the whites.

Brant hated Red Jacket very heartily. He could find no excuse for the latter's lack of courage. Brant was a powerful young chief, with his heart in the English cause. Red Jacket was a rising young man of gifts, but he was not a warrior, and was totally unscrupulous as to which side he took so long as he gained influence thereby. The two men very naturally clashed. Brant gave Red Jacket the nickname of Cow-Killer. He used to tell that at one time during the Revolutionary war, Red Jacket with his usual eloquence exhorted the Indians to courage, and promised to be with them in the thickest of the fight. When the battle came off, however, Red Jacket was missing, having stayed at home to cut up a cow which he had captured, The brave Seneca chief Cornplanter had as strong a dislike for the intriguing Red Jacket as Brant himself. These two chiefs one day dined at a white gentleman's house in company with Red Jacket. During the meal Cornplanter took occasion to tell the story as though it had been done by some other Indian. Brant and Cornplanter laughed very heartily, enjoying the joke and the evident confusion of Red Jacket, who tried to join in the laugh but could not conceal his wounded vanity.

When some one sneeringly questioned Red Jacket as to his gifts as a warrior, he burst out with, " I am an orator! I was born an orator!" And indeed, from the accounts of all who heard him, Red Jacket must have been a very eloquent speaker. What better tribute could there be to his eloquence than the name which was given him when he became a chief ? It was Sagoyewatha, or He-Keeps-Them-Awake.

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