History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Campaign of Lieut. Gen. John Burgoyne
and The Expedition of Lieut. Col. Barry St. Leger.
by William L. Stone.
Albany, NY, Joel Munsell. 1877.
ANECDOTES OF BURGOYNE'S CAMPAIGN--PERSONAL REMINISCENCES, ETC., BY THE LATE CHAS. NEILSON.
ON the near approach of Burgoyne with so powerful, and as yet successful an army, with his horde of unrestrained savages, who were continually in advance and on his flanks, prowling about the country, plundering, murdering, and scalping all who refused loyalty to the British king , the inhabitants on both sides of the river, in the wildest consternation and alarm, fled in every direction. The horrors of war, however mitigated by the laws and usages of civilization, are at all times sufficiently terrific, but when to these the fierce cruelties of a cloud of savages are superadded, those only who are familiar with an American border warfare, can form an adequate opinion of its atrocities. In one place a long cavalcade of ox carts occasionally intermixed with wagons, filled with all kinds of furniture hurriedly thrown in, and not often selected by the owners with reference to their use or value, on occasions of such alarm, were stretched for some distance along the road; while in another might be seen a number on horseback, and here and there two mounted at once on a steed panting under the weight of a double load, closely followed by a crowd of pedestrians, and some perhaps weeping mothers, with a child or two screaming in their arms OT on their backs, trudging along with fearful and hurried step. These found great difficulty in keeping up with the rapid flight of their mounted friends. Here and there would be seen some humane person assisting the more unfortunate, by relieving them of their burdens with which they were encumbered ; but generally a principle of selfishness prevented much interchange of friendly offices - every one for himself was the common cry.
To those who now sit quietly under their own shady bowers, or by the fireside long endeared by tranquility and happiness, it is left to imagine, with what feelings they hastened to abandon their homes and their all, as it were, and fly for safety, they knew not whither. The men of this generation can never know what were the sorrows of those fathers that saw their children exposed to dangers and death, and what the agonies of those kind mothers, of whom my own respected mother was one, who pressed their offspring to their bosom in the constant apprehension of seeing them torn from their embraces, to become the victims of savage cruelty, and it is impossible with sufficient force to describe the appalling distress that many families experienced at that moment of peril and alarm.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Often, when a boy, have I sat long and silent, in the family group, by the side of my much respected, now sainted mother, listening to her tales of alarm, suffering and distress, that pervaded this part of the country, in those troublous o times, and the dangers to which she herself had frequently been exposed. And often while reciting the tragic fate of her friend and acquaintance, Miss Jane M'Crea, and other equally savage cruelties, have I seen the big tear roll from her glistening eye and trickle down her cheek, glowing with the emotions of her heart. And even to this day, when I reflect on those scenes of savage cruelty, and with what emotion they were then recited, a sympathetic tear will insensibly steal from my eye, and I am involuntarily led to exclaim O ! my mother ! my much loved mother ! could I have been present to have witnessed those scenes of danger and alarm to which thou hast been exposed, and from which thou barely escaped with thy life, with one arm would I have encircled that brow, around which the Indian's tomahawk thrice was brandished, preparatory to the fatal stroke ; and with the other would I have dashed to the earth, that ferocious savage, whose scalping-knife, reeking with the blood of thy friends, was already drawn to execute on thee its threatened deed ! But a mightier arm was interposed for thy protection. He in whom thou trusted was there-for at the critical moment, when there seemed no possible escape, a file of men approached, as if specially and providentially directed-the sharp crack of rifles was heard in the distance-the fatal balls were sped--two cruel savages fell dead at thy feet, and thou alone, the joy of thy friends, wast saved, to relate the sad story of thy three murdered companions !
It may be supposed, from my relation of so many of the numerous scenes, and some of them heart-rending, through which my own friends have passed, that they were the only persons who suffered in those trying times. My intention is not to be so understood, nor do I suppose that the many trials through which they passed, were greater than those of many others; yet the relation of them, by being often repeated, have become more familiar, and consequently better enables me to give a correct account of them.
The subsequent tragic scene, though I do not now recollect all the particulars, I will recount in substance, as follows:
My step-grandfather, had been very active among the Indians and tories, and understood their manner of warfare so well that he was often selected to head volunteer parties, who went in pursuit of them, in their marauding expeditions, and was generally very successful, for which they owed him a-grudge, and tried many ways to decoy and take him ; but he had always eluded them. It happened on a time when it was supposed there were no Indians in the vicinity, and the inhabitants all felt secure, that my father was gone from home on business with the committee of safety, leaving my grandfather, grandmother, and mother, at home alone - they all occupying the same house at the time. Soon after dark, a little dog, which they had, and which was then in the house, for some moments seemed to express considerable uneasiness, and at last ran to the door, and with a kind of howl, or unusual expression, immediately turned and looked up, with much seeming concern, to my grandfather, whose keen perception in a moment led him to exclaim, " Indians !" He immediately caught his rifle, which lay horizontally on hooks attached to a beam overhead, and opening the door stepped out. But he had no sooner passed the threshold, than the sharp crack of three rifles were heard in rapid succession, and he staggered back, exclaiming, " run for your lives!" and fell into the room. My mother and grandmother, already horror-stricken, gave a sudden scream and immediately sprang out of an opposite window, and ran to a neighboring house, about eighty rods distant, to give the alarm. It so happened that two distant neighbors, who had been out that day on a hunting excursion, called at the same house some ten or fifteen minutes before, and hearing the firing, were, in company with the occupant, listening to ascertain its direction, if repeated. At the same time a horse was heard at a distance rapidly approaching, which soon proved to be my father's on which, having heard the firing, and suspecting mischief, he was riding at the top of his speed, and arrived at the moment the alarm was given. Springing from his horse, and being furnished with a rifle, the four men immediately hurried on, regardless of any danger they might be rushing into. On approaching the house, it being then quite dark, they caught the glimpse of persons running in the direction of a piece of woods near by; upon whom they, in their hurry, fired at random.
Having pursued on to the skirt of the wood, and seeing no more of the enemy, they returned to the house, where a mournful spectacle presented itself. There lay the mangled and lifeless corpse of my grandfather, drenched in his own blood; and tomahawked and scalped, and on examination it was found that three balls had passed through his body. In searching, the next morning, at the place where the Indians, for such were they supposed to be, were fired upon, they found blood in several places leading into the woods, evincing that some one of them, at least, had been wounded. It was supposed that the hostile party consisted of four tories, and five Indians, as that number was seen next day, near Fort Edward, traveling north with a hurried step; one of which limped considerably and lagged behind.
A short time previous to the foregoing tragedy, my grandfather, at the head of fifty men, had a desperate encounter with about eighty Indians and Tories at Sabbathday point,1 in which the enemy were defeated, with the loss of forty killed and wounded. It was supposed that, in consequence of so signal a defeat, which was effected by means of an ambuscade, the Indians and Tories were determined, at all hazards, to destroy the man, who in this, as in many other instances, had been so great a
1 Sabbathday point "is a low neck of land stretching into Lake George from the western shore, three miles from the little village of Hague. On Sabbathday point, Lord Amherst with his army stopped for refreshment upon the morning of the Sabbath, and gave this beautiful spot the name by which it is now known. It is a charming spot, and susceptible of great ; embelishment. In the summer of 1756, a small body of Provincials who had retreated to this point, defeated a superior force of French and Indians, who had attacked them in gun-boats.
scourge to them, and which they finally accomplished, in the manner already related.
At the time the American army under General Schuyler was retreating down the Hudson from Fort Edward, small parties of Tories and Indians kept pace with them along the opposite bank, and when an opportunity presented, where the road was on or near the margin of that stream, along which the army passed, they would secrete themselves near the bank and fire across at the officers and men , and in this manner they pursued them as far down as Stillwater, wounding many on the way. When the army was thus passing near E. Vandenburgh's, and opposite a shoal place in the river, an Indian waded out some distance and fired, hitting a soldier and badly wounding him in the hand. Another soldier, by the name of Dirk Van Vechten, who was marching in the same platoon, was so vexed at it that he was determined to avenge the injury. Accordingly he kept a sharp look out, and watching his opportunity, as soon as he saw an Indian approach the river, he crept along on the ground, and laid himself down on the margin of the bank, behind some open bushes , and as an Indian arrived at a spot in the river, from which he raised his piece to fire. Van Vechten let drive at him, when the Indian bounded, with a horrid screech, three feet out of water, and fell, and he saw no more of him. After that, the Indians were very careful how and where they showed themselves.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Several anecdotes in connection with the battle of Bennington have been recorded, of which the following is one.
Among the reinforcements from. Berkshire county came a clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Allen, of Pittsfield, with a portion of his flock, resolved to make bare the arm of flesh against the enemies of the country. Before daylight on the morning of the 16th, he addressed the commander as follows: "We the people of Berkshire have been frequently called upon to fight, but have never been led against the enemy. We have now resolved, if you will not let us fight, never to turn out again." General Stark asked him if he wished to march then, when it was dark and rainy. "No," was the answer. "Then," continued Stark, " if the Lord should once more give us sunshine, and I do not give you fighting enough, I will never ask you to come again." The weather cleared up in the course of the day, and the men of Berkshire followed their spiritual guide into action.
Another - On General Stark's approach to the Hessian camp, and pointing out the enemy to his soldiers, he declared to them that " he would gain the victory over them in the approaching battle, or Molly Stark should be a widow that night."
Some two or three days previous to the time that Colonel Baum was detached to Bennington, a party of Indians and tones were sent on for the purpose of scouring the country between that place and Fort Edward. On their way they captured and took with them Mrs. Hannah Coon (now Mrs. Grandy), wife of Mr. Elisha Coon, a captain in the American militia, and who was then absent on duty. Mrs. Coon was then in a very delicate situation, and such as required momentary attention ; but notwithstanding, she was compelled, as incapacitated as she was, to travel on foot with these ferocious savages and more brutal Tories The second day after her capture her accouchement took place, where they halted for the night. In the morning after her confinement, she, with two other women who had also been captured, was again compelled to walk and carry her child, to the place where the troops under Colonel Baum encamped, previous to the action with the Americans under General Stark. Before the battle, she says, the troops were in high spirits, and boasted much of their ability to subdue the "rebel Yankees," as they called the Americans, and vainly endeavored to persuade a number, whom they had taken prisoners on the way, to join in the cause of the British king. But during the action, and while the soldiers were repeatedly bringing the wounded into camp, she would laugh at, and ridicule them. Soon after the action commenced, she saw the Indians, she says, flying in all directions, and skulking behind trees, rocks, and other places of concealment. On the retreat of the Indians, after the defeat of Colonel Baum, she was taken with them, and soon met the reinforcments under Colonel Breymann, when she returned to camp and remained during the second battle, and was again compelled to travel on foot with them on their retreat to the place where they encamped during the night. Here, owing to her recent confinement and constant fatigue, she was taken sick, and whether it was on that account, or on account of the hurry and bustle the troops were in at the time, being in momentary expectation of pursuit by the Americans, she does not know, but she was left without a guard, and managed to conceal herself and child until they had departed, when she made her escape.
During those days of extreme suffering, distress, and alarm that she experienced, while in her delicate state of health, she was often threatened with instant death, if she refused to proceed or complained of inability ; and once, in particular, an Indian chief approached her with much ferocity, at a time when she was tantalizing them on their defeat, and actually clenched up her child, which was lying on her lap, and drew his scalping knife around its head, and brandished his tomahawk over her, in token of what he would do if she did not desist ; and she thinks would have carried his threats into execution, had it not been for the interference of a humane officer. After her escape, and having undergone all the horrors of a cruel death, she with much difficulty returned home, where she remained alone (excepting her infant child), and in the midst of the wilderness, about three weeks, with nothing to subsist upon but a little salt pork, which had been concealed, and some old or seed cucumbers, that were left undisturbed in the garden, all of their other provisions and even her cooking and other furniture having been taken away by the Indians and Tories The cucumbers she scraped the seeds from and peeled, then roasted them in the embers, and though she was fearful they might kill her, yet, she says, she thought she might as well die by eating them as to starve to death - as the salt pork she could not eat alone.
At the expiration of three weeks she was again taken by the Indians and Tories, who, she thinks, vented their malice particularly upon her, on account of her husband having taken sides with the Americans, as they would often speak of it. At this time she was compelled to cross the river with them, in advance of the British army, and was taken as far as Stillwater, but managed to make her escape during the action of the 19th of September, having suffered much during the time. But little do the junior matrons of these times of luxury and ease, know or feel of the suffering and deprivations of those who inhabited this part of the country in those days of peril and alarm ; and there are but few, who sufficiently realize the price at which the dear bought liberties of our now happy country were purchased.
Mrs. Coon (Grandy), now (1844) lives on the same farm that her husband owned and occupied when she was taken prisoner - about two miles from Union Village, in Washington county. New York. She is, at the time of writing this narrative, ninety-three years of age, quite active, and her step uncommonly firm for a person of her advanced age, and she bids fair to live yet a number of years. On the recital of her sufferings, a glow of resentment suffused her matronly cheek, and the fire of indignation would sparkle in her keen black eye; but in a moment she sprang upon her feet, with the seeming activity of youth, and broke out in raptures of joy, as though no sacrifice for her country had been too great, and exclaimed with much energy of feeling: " But they got well paid for it! the first army," as she called it, " were most all taken prisoners, and the second got defeated and had to run for their lives, " and " Oh," she said, " how I rejoiced to see it, though I knew my own sufferings would be increased." And who is there so lost to his country's weal as not to exclaim with the patriot poet ?
" Amor (patriae) vincit omnia, et nos cedamus amori."
The following incident took place while Colonel Warner had the command of the garrison at Fort Edward :
While the Americans held undisputed possession of the posts at the "north, it was a very common thing for the different commanders to exchange visits. Colonel Warner occasionally visited the commander at Fort George. On one of these occasions, he was returning with two officers, all of them on horseback. As the were passing the Bloody pond, where some hostile Indians had hid themselves behind an old tree, they received a volley of musketry from their concealed enemies. The two officers fell lifeless to the ground, and Colonel Warner was wounded, as was also the horse he rode. He put spurs to the bleeding animal and endeavored to escape. One of the officer's horses accompanied him, and the Indians pursued. As he rode on, his own occasionally seemed ready to fall under him, and at other times would revive and appear to renew his strength. The other horse kept up with them, alternately increasing and relaxing his speed, to keep pace with his wounded companion. The colonel in vain tried to seize the bridle which hung over his neck, an expedient which promised to save him if his own Steed should fail. In this manner, and with all the horrid anticipation of a cruel death before him, he managed to outstrip his pursuers until he reached Glen's Falls. There, as the uninjured horse came along side, he made another attempt to seize his bridle, and succeeded. He instantly dismounted, unslung his own saddle, threw it over the fence, mounted the other horse and rode off at full speed. He saw no more of his pursuers from this moment, but reached Fort Edward in safety. Not however, without being really overcome by his exertion, fatigue, and loss of blood. What was also singular, was the arrival of his wounded horse, which lived to do good service in the field.
* * * * * * *
During the time (nearly a month 1) that Burgoyne, with his army, lay at and near the Batten kil, an incident took place, which I think worthy of notice, as showing the spirit and ardor of the whigs in those troublous times, and their determination to cut off all supplies from the invading army.
The tories, or cow boys as they were then called, were in the constant habit of plundering the inhabitants
1 An error, unless Fort Miller, ten miles above, is considered as a portion of the encampment at the Batten kil.- W. L. Stone.
on both sides of the river, of their grain, poultry, and other kinds of eatables, and driving off their cattle, hogs, and sheep, whenever they could find them, for the purpose of supplying the British army with provisions, for which no doubt they were well paid. Though often pursued, and sometimes roughly handled by the whigs, they still persisted. At one time in particular, they had collected and secreted in a deep dark ravine, branching off from Mill creek, a large quantity of provisions, such as beef, pork, flour, and other articles of consumption, with the intention of transporting them, at some favorable opportunity, to the British camp. By accident it was found out, and the place of concealment discovered upon which my father, at the head of about twenty resolute fellows, which he had collected together and well armed, went on in the night, for the purpose of taking or destroying their plunder. On their arrival within a short distance of the depot, one of them crept slily (slyly?) along, when he discovered the tories, about thirty in number ; five of whom appeared to be armed and keeping guard, while the others were in the act of loading four wagons which stood a short distance from the depot, and which they had brought for the purpose of conveying away their stores. The assailing party then held a secret council of war, to consult whether, the enemy being so much superior in number, it was advisable to proceed ; whereupon it was unanimously agreed that they should go ahead, and made their arrangements accordingly.
The place where the stores were concealed, was behind a point projecting from the opposite side, around which the ravine curved, forming the bank on the side of the assailants-into a semicircle, around which, it was preconcerted, they should extend themselves in couples, and silently approach the bank or brow of the hill, and at the word of command, " Come on, boys!" they were all to give a whoop, and rush on, though not to fire unless the Tories made resistance , but in that case, to fight their way through in the best way they could. "All preliminaries being arranged, they formed themselves in order of battle, and silently moved on to the brow of the hill forming the ravine ; and when my father, who was at the head, and as previously agreed, gave the word, " Come on boys!" they gave such horrid, continued, and frightful yells, and at the same time rushing down the hill like a mighty torrent, that by the time they had got to the bottom of the ravine, the enemy had all decamped, leaving their arms and baggage a prey to the victors. The assailants not yet satisfied, pursued on a considerable distance, shouting, whooping, and making the woods ring with their horrid yells, as though a thousand Indians had been let loose upon the frightened fugitives. Having found no enemy in their pursuit, the assailants returned to the deserted camp, to examine their booty ; but as the Tories had not yet brought, or had concealed their horses, and having no means of bringing off the wagons, they went to work and broke them in pieces, as much as they could. Having stove in the barrels, and scattered and otherwise destroyed the flour and other provisions, they all returned home safe and sound, and much to the joy and gratification of their families and friends ; bringing with them twenty-five stand of arms, with which Burgoyne had furnished the Tories, and which the victors considered lawful prize. Thus ended this hazardous and praiseworthy exploit, and for which my father was honored with the title of captain, a title, as is now well known to many, by which for a number of years, he was addressed, until he was appointed a civil magistrate, when the title was exchanged for esquire.
About the same time, small parties of Indians were seen prowling about the vicinity, of whom my father and a few resolute fellows had been in pursuit. On their return, he had occasion, while the others passed on, to call at a Mr. Ezekiel Ensign's, who afterwards, and for a number of years, kept a public house a little north of Wllbur's basin. While sitting there about nine o'clock in the evening, in conversation with Mr. Ensign, a ferocious looking giant-like Indian, armed and accoutred in the usual costume of an aboriginal warrior, ushered him self into the room, and after eyeing them sharply for a moment, he with one hand drew from his belt a huge tomahawk, which he flourished about his head in true Indian style, and with the other a long scalping-knife, whose glittering steel became more brilliant in the dazzling glare of a bright torch-light, and with which he exhibited, in pantomime, his dextrous manner of taking scalps. At the same time, with eyes flashing fire, and turning alternately from one to the other, as they sat in opposite directions, he accompanied his daring acts in broken English, with threats of instant death, if they attempted to move or speak. Ensign being a cripple in one arm, having at some former time accidentally received a charge of shot through his shoulder, and feeling his own weakness, should resistance become necessary, and being in momentary expectation of receiving the fatal blow, became fixed and immovable in his chair, with a countenance of ashy paleness,
Obstupuit, steteruntque comae, et vox faucibus haesit.
On the other hand, my father, being a man of great muscular strength, and of uncommon agility, and having had many encounters with the Indians, for which they owed him a grudge, prepared himself, with much presence of mind, for a desperate event. To this effect, while the Indian, in his threatening manner, would momentarily direct his attention to Ensign, he would imperceptibly and by degrees, turn himself in his chair, and in this manner would from time to time, keep silently moving by little and little, until he succeeded in placing himself in a position in which he could grasp with both hands, the back posts of his chair. Thus situated, and knowing the lives of both of them depended altogether on his own exertions, he watched his opportunity, and the moment the Indian turned his eye from him, he grasped the chair, and with almost the rapidity of lightning, sprang upon his feet, whirled the chair over his head, and aimed at him a desperate blow: but the chair taking the ceiling above, and the Indian at the same time, and almost as quick as thought, dodging the blow, he missed his aim. The Indian, having recovered his position, immediately sprang with a hideous yell, and with his tomahawk uplifted, ready to strike the fatal blow, but before he could effect his direful purpose, the chair was brought around the second time, and with redoubled force, athwart his head and shoulders, which brought him to the floor.
No sooner had he fallen, than his assailant, dropping his chair, sprang upon him, and wrenched from his firm grasp, the dreadful weapons of death; and would have disabled him on the spot, but Ensign, who by this time had recovered the power of speech, and supposing he intended to take the Indian's life, begged of him not to kill him in the house. He then, holding him in his firm grasp, called for a rope, which was soon procured, and with the assistance of Ensign, he succeeded, though not without a dreadful struggle, in binding the savage monster, By this time, two of the neighbors who had been alarmed by some female of the family, came in, when he was shut up in an out-house, with the doors barred, and left in their keeping during the remainder of the night, to be disposed of in the morning as circumstances might require. In the night, the guard believing him secure, and allowing themselves to fall asleep, he made his escape, by removing some portion of the floor and under wall, on the opposite side of the prison to which his guard was posted, much to the regret, not only of his victor, but to many of the neighbors,-who had flocked together to obtain a sight of the conquered savage.
At another time seven of those maurauding tories, who had distinguished themselves by a series of desperate acts not to be patiently endured by the community, were taken prisoners, conveyed to Albany, and Confined in the city prison, which also served for the court house and the meetings of the common council, and from which they once made their escape, but only to enjoy their liberty a few hours, for they were soon retaken and condemned to the gallows. The public indignation was much excited by their conduct in prison, and the circumstances attending their being brought to suffer the sentence of the law. They were confined in the right hand room of the lower story of the prison. The door of their apartment swung in a place cut out lower than the level of the floor. When the sheriff came to take them out he found the door barricaded. He procured a heavy piece of timber with which he in vain endeavored t to batter down the door, although he was assisted in the ; operation by some very athletic and willing individuals. During the attempt, the voices of the prisoners were heard threatening death to those who persevered in the attempt, with the assertion that they had a train of powder to blow up themselves and their assailants. Indeed it was well ascertained, that a quantity of powder had passed, into their possession, but how, could not be known. It was afterwards found placed under the floor, and arranged to produce the threatened result. The sheriff could not effect his entrance, while a crowd of gazers looked on to see the end of this singular contest. Some one suggested the idea of getting to them through the ceiling, and immediately went to work to effect a passage by cutting a hole through. While this was going on, the prisoners renewed their threats, with vows of vengeance speedy, awful and certain. The assailants, however, persevered, and having procured a fire-engine, placed it so as to introduce the hose suddenly to the hole in the ceiling, and at a given signal inundated the room beneath. This was dextrously performed. The powder and its train were in an instant rendered useless. Still, however, to descend was the difficulty, as but one person could do so at a time. The disproportion of physical strength that apparently awaited the first intruder, prevented, for some time, any further attempt. At last an Irishman, by the name of McDole, who was a merchant, exclaimed, " give me an Irishman's gun, and I will go first !" He was instantly provided with a formidable cudgel, and with this in his hand he descended, and at the same moment in which he struck the floor, he levelled the prisoner near him, and continued to lay about him violently until the room was filled with a strong party of citizens, who came to his assistance through the hole in the ceiling. After a hard struggle they were secured, and the door, which had been barricaded by brick taken from the fireplace, was opened.
They were almost immediately taken out for execution, and the mob was sufficiently exasperated to have instantly taken their punishment into their own hands. The prisoners while moving up the hill to the place of execution, wore an air of great gloom and ill nature. No one appeared to pity them, and their own hopes of being released by some fortunate circumstance, as by the intervention of the enemy, had now vanished forever.
Having arrived at the summit of the hill, near, or at the very place now covered with elegant and substantial edifices, near the present academy, they there, upon one gallows of rude construction, ended their miserable lives together, and were buried in front of it.
The transaction created considerable excitement, and was considered by the Tories as a cruel and unnecessary waste of life, and a sacrifice to the unnatural feelings which had dictated the unhappy rebellion. By the whigs, it was considered as a necessary example, demanded by the nature of the times and the enormity of the offences they had committed, and they considered it not only a justifiable, but an imperious act of necessity, to inflict upon the offenders the full penalties of the law.1
* * * * * * * *
At one time while the two armies were encamped near each other (after the battle of Freeman's farm) about twenty of the most resolute inhabitants in the vicinity, collected together for the purpose of having a frolic, as they termed it, of some kind or other. After their arrival at the place of rendezvous, and a number of propositions had been logically discussed, they finally concluded, with more courage than prudence, that, by a coup-de-main, they would go and bring in one of the British advance pickets, which was posted on the north bank of the middle ravine. Having with much formality, selected their several officers, and furnished themselves with suitable arms and other equipments, they marched off in ir-regular military style. The martial costume of the captain, for by such title he was addressed, exhibited
1 The Sexagenary, by S. D. W. Bloodgood, p. 100, Munsell's edition.
the extremes of continental etiquette, personified in one instance, by a sharp and huge three cocked hat, profusely trimmed with the threadbare fragments of thrown off gold lace, surmounting a well pomatumed and powdered head. A long waisted blue coat, turned up with rather sun-bleached buff, that met and parted at the same time on his breast ; a black silk neck-kerchief drawn tightly around his throat, discovering the balance of power, or rather the center of gravity, to be lying some where in the region of the olfactory organ, completed the upper half of this mischief-bent volunteer officer. A pair of buckskin small clothes drawn tightly over a muscular thigh, were met at the knee by a pair of straight-sided boots, that, doubtless, by their stiffness and want of pliability prevented any thing like an attack upon the limb inside. An old white belt thrown over the whole man, and a heavy sabre with a leather scabbard, completed the brilliant costume of this son of chivalry, and irregular friend of the continental congress.
The other com-missioned officers, for such by way of dislinguishment, were they called, were fully armed and accoutred in a similar manner, but somewhat inferior in brilliancy.
Brown tow shirts were the panoply of the farmer-soldiers ; over their broad shoulders hung powder horns and shot bags, manufactured during the long winter evenings, and now and then stopped up with a corn cob, which had escaped the researches of the swinish multitude. Muskets were rather uncommon among the inhabitants in those days of martial exploit, and in their stead, long fowling-pieces were substituted.
In such a group of combatants just escaped, as it were, from the tomahawk, hastily equipped for the present emergency, and bearing a grotesque appearance, the name of Steuben was of no more weight than the feather that danced in the breeze. Thus armed and accoutred, these sons of daring intrepidity, marched off about ten o'clock at night, with more courage than order, fully determined to conquer or die in the glorious cause of their beloved country, then bleeding at every pore.
As they approached within musket-shot distance of their unsuspecting enemy, they were formed, or rather formed themselves in order of battle, and advanced in three grand divisions-one by a circuitous route, to gain their rear, while the other two posted themselves on their flanks. After giving time for each party to gain their several positions, the resolute captain, who was prepared for the purpose, gave the preconcerted signal, by a deafening blast on an old horse trumpet, whose martial sound had often cheered the mounted troops to fierce and bloody combat, when all, with fearless step " rushed bravely on" with clattering arms, through rustling leaves and crackling brush, with the usual parade of a hundred men. As they closed in, the leaders of each division, in a bold and commanding voice, and before the guard could say " Who comes there ?" called, or rather bawled out, "Ground your arms, or you are all dead men!"
Supposing they were surrounded by a much superior force, and deeming resistance, under such circumstances, of no avail, the officer of the guard gave the orders, when their arms were immediately grounded, and thirty British soldiers surrendered themselves " prisoners of war" to only two-thirds of their number, and those undisciplined American farmers.
* * * * * * * * *
Accompanying the American army were a great number of women, principally foreigners, many of whom had husbands or brothers in the action, and many who followed merely for the sake of plunder, as was manifested during the night after the action of the 7th October. The next morning after the battle, every man that was left dead on the field, and even those who were supposed to be mortally wounded, and not yet dead, but helpless, were found stripped of their clothing, which rendered it almost impossible to distinguish between American and British. But during the action, a heart-rending, and yet to some a laughable, scene took place in the American camp, and probably the same in the British. In the heat of the battle, and while the cannon were constantly roaring like oft peals of distant thunder, and making the earth to quake from its very foundation, some of those women, wringing their hands, apparently in the utmost distress, and frantically tearing their hair in the agony of their feelings, were heard to cry out, in the most lamentable exclamations, " Och, my husband ! my poor husband ! Lord Jesus,-spare my poor husband!" which would be often repeated, and sometimes by fifteen or twenty voices at once ; while the more hardened ones, and those rejoicing in the prospects of plunder, would break out in blasphemous imprecations, exclaiming, " D-n your poor husband, you can get another!" And in this manner the scene continued during the action and I have heard it observed by those who were present, that they could not help smiling, even through their tears, at the pitiful exhibition.
* * * * * * *
The soldier who shot General Fraser, was Timothy Murphy, a Virginian, who belonged to Morgan's rifle corps, in which he distinguished himself as a marksman, and excited much interest while in camp. After the capture of Burgoyne, the company to which he belonged was ordered to Schoharie, where it remained until their term of service expired. When the company was disbanded, Murphy and some others remained, and served gin the militia ; his skill in the desultory war which the Indians carry on, gave him so high a reputation, that though not nominally the commander, he usually directed all the movements of the scouts that were sent out, and on many important occasions the commanding officers found it dangerous to neglect his advice , his double rifle his skill as a marksman, and his fleetness either in retreat or pursuit, made him an object both of dread and of vengeance to the Indians: they formed many plans to destroy him, but he always eluded them, and sometimes made them suffer for their temerity.
He fought the Indians with their own weapons. When circumstances permitted, he tomahawked and scalped his fallen enemy ; he boasted after the war that he had slain forty of the enemy with his own hand; more than half of whom he had scalped; he took delight in perilous adventures, and seemed to love danger for danger's sake. Tradition has preserved the account of many of his exploits, but there are so many versions of the same story, and so much evident fiction mixed with the truth, that the author will give but a single instance as proof of the dread with which he was regarded by the Indians.
They were unable to conjecture how he could discharge his rifle twice without having time to reload, and his singular good fortune in escaping unhurt, led them to suppose that he was attended by some invisible being who warded off their bullets, and sped his with unerring-certainty to the mark. When they had learned the mystery of his doubled-barrelled rifle, they were careful not to expose themselves too much until he had fired twice, knowing that he must have time to reload his piece before he could do them further injury.
One day having separated from his party, he was pursued by a number of Indians, all of whom he outran excepting one , Murphy turned round, fired upon this Indian, and killed him. Supposing that the others had given up the pursuit he stopped to strip the dead, when the rest of his pursuers came in sight. He snatched the rifle of his fallen foe, and with it killed one of his pursuers ; the rest, now sure of their prey, with a yell of joy heedlessly rushed on, hoping to make him their prisoner ; he was ready to drop down with fatigue, and was likely to be overtaken, when turning round, he discharged the remaining barrel of his rifle, and killed the foremost of the Indians ; the rest, astonished at his firing three times in succession, fled, crying out that he could shoot all day without loading.
In stature, Murphy was about five feet six inches, and very well proportioned, with dark complexion, and an eye that would kindle and flash like the very lightning when excited. He was exceedingly quick in all his motions, and possessed an iron frame that nothing apparently could affect: And what is very remarkable, his body was never wounded or scarred during the whole war.1
* * * *
The following facts respecting Col. Cochran, I obtained through the politeness of Miss Caroline Ogden, an interesting maiden lady, and grand-daughter of the colonel, who now (1844) resides with J. T. M'Cown, Esq., in the city of Troy.
Colonel Cochran having been sent to Canada as a spy, his mission was suspected, and a large bounty offered for his head. While there he was taken sick, and knowing that he was suspected, concealed himself, for the space of a few days, in a brush heap, within about two miles of the American lines, unable to make his escape, or even to walk. Having suffered much from his sickness and want of nourishment, and having discovered a log cabin at considerable distance from where he was concealed, and the only one in sight, he crept to it on his
1 At the close of the war, Murphy became a farmer and settled in Schoharie Co., N. Y. He was a capital stump speaker, and was a political power in the county. He brought. William C. Bouck into political life, which in time, carried him into the gubernatorial chair of the Empire state. He died in 1818, full of years and honors, of cancer occasioned by the recoil of his rifle on his cheek.- Ed.
hands and knees, for the purpose of soliciting assistance. On his approach to the rear of the cabin, he heard three men in earnest conversation, and as it happened he was the subject of their discourse. Having heard of the heavy bounty that was offered fur the colonel, and having seen a man in the vicinity a few days before, answering the description of him, they were then forming their plans, and expressing their determination to find his where-abouts, and take him for the sake of the bounty. One of the men was the owner of the cabin, whose wife was also present, and the others were his brother and brother-in-law. Soon after this conversation took place, and the three men having departed in pursuit, he crept into the cabin, and frankly told the woman, who seemed favorably impressed towards him, on account of his almost helpless condition, that he had overheard the conversation, and that he was the man of whom they were in search, and that he should throw himself entirely upon her mercy, and trust to her fidelity for protection, which she very kindly promised him, to the utmost of her ability. Having administered some restoratives, which seemed to give relief, and given him some suitable nourishment, he lay down on a bed in the room, for the purpose of taking some repose, which he very much needed. After the men had been absent some three hours, they again returned, when she concealed him in a closet, or sort of cupboard, standing by the side of the fire-place, and shut the door, taking good -care while the men were in the house, to keep near it herself, that if anything should be wanted from within, she might be ready to get it herself. During the time the men were in the cabin, they expressed much confidence in the belief that the colonel was concealed somewhere in the vicinity, and named many places in which they intended to search for him ; all of which he, in his place of concealment, overheard. Having taken some food, and otherwise prepared themselves, the men again departed, in order to renew their search.
Soon after they retired, and the woman considering the colonel's present situation not long safe, she proposed that he should conceal himself at some distance from the cabin, where she might clandestinely bring him food, and render him such other assistance as he needed, and accordingly directed him to take post on a certain hill about half a mile off, where he might be able to discover any person on their approach, and to flee, if he was able, and it became necessary. On his manifesting an inclination to resume his former position in the brush heap, which was in the midst of quite a patch of ground that had been cut over for a fallow, she told him that her husband intended to burn it over the next day, and in that case he would certainly be discovered, or perish in the conflagration ; upon which he submitted entirely to her proposition and directions, and crept along to the hill in the best way he could. He remained sometime in this place of concealment, undiscovered by any one except this faithful Rahab of the forest, who rendered him suitable and timely assistance, and like a good Samaritan poured in the " oil and the wine," until his strength was in a measure restored, and he was again enabled to return to his country and his home.
Some years, after the close of the war, and while the colonel lived at Ticonderoga, he accidentally came across this kind hearted woman, whose name, I much regret, I have not been able to ascertain, and rewarded her handsomely for her fidelity.
Colonel Cochran died 1822, near Sandy Hill, Washington county, New York, much lamented by a large circle of friends and acquaintances, and was buried in the family burying-ground at Fort Edward.
* * * * * * *
The Germans were found almost totally unfit for the business they were engaged in. They were unable to march through the woods and encounter the difficulties incident to our then almost unsettled country. Many of them deserted to our army before and after the convention at Saratoga.
Among those of the German troops who surrendered, were the Hesse-Hanau regiment, Riedesel's dragoons and Specht's regiment, the most remarkable of the whole. The Hessians were extremely dirty in their persons, and had a collection of wild animals in their train - the only thing American they had captured. Here could be seen an artillery-man leading a black grizzly bear, who every now and then would rear upon his hind legs as if he were tired of going upon all fours, or occasionally growl his disapprobation at being pulled along by his chain. In the same manner a tamed deer would be seen tripping lightly after a grenadier. Young foxes were also observed looking sagaciously at the spectators from the top of a baggage wagon, or a young raccoon securely clutched under the arm of a sharp shooter. There were a great many women accompanying the Germans, and a miserable looking set of oddly dressed, gypsey featured females they were.
It is said that no insults were offered to the prisoners as they marched off, and they felt grateful for it. However, after they got out of the camp, many of the British soldiers were extremely abusive, cursing the rebels and their own hard fate. The troops were escorted by some of the New England militia, and crossed the river at Stillwater, on a bridge of rafts, which had been constructed by the Americans while the army was encamped on Bemis's heights.
On the night of the surrender, a number of Indians and squaws, the relics of Burgoyne's aboriginal force; were quartered under a strong guard for safe keeping. Without this precaution their lives would not have been safe from the exasperated militia.
* * * * * * *
Among these savages were three, that were between six and seven feet in height, perfect giants in form, and possessing the most ferocious countenances. And among them, was recognized the same Indian with whom my father had the encounter at Ensign's.
Blood and carnage were now succeeded by success I; and plunder. The clouds of battle rolled away, and discovered hundreds of searchers after the relics of the tented field.
* * * * * * * *
While the British army lay on the north bank of Fish creek, the east side of the river, in addition to the regular troops, was lined with American militia. One of them, an expert swimmer, discovered a number of the enemy's horses feeding in a meadow of General Schuyler's, opposite, and asked permission of his captain to go over and get one of them. It was given, and the man instantly stripped, and swam across the river. He ascended the bank and selecting a fine bay horse for his prize, approached the animal, seized, and mounted him instantly. This last was the work of a moment. He forced the horse into a gallop, plunged down the bank and brought him safely over to the American camp, although a volley of musketry was fired at him from a party of British soldiers posted at a distance beyond. His success was hailed with enthusiasm, and it had a corresponding effect on his own adventurous spirit. After he had rested himself, he went to his officer and remarked, that it was not proper that a private should ride, whilst his commander went on foot. " So, sir," added he, " if you have no objections, I will go and catch another for you, and next winter when we are home, we will have our own fun in driving a pair of Burgoyne's horses." The captain seemed to think it would be rather a pleasant thing, and gave a ready consent. The fellow actually went across the second time, and with equal success, and brought over a horse that matched exceedingly well with the other. The men enjoyed this prank very much, and it was a circumstance familiar to almost every one in the army at that time.
Another circumstance happened about the same time, and shows that families were not only divided in feeling on the subject of the war, but that the natural ties which bind the same kith and kin together, were not always proof against the political animosities of the times. When Burgoyne found his boats were not safe, and in fact much nearer the main body of the American army than his own, it became necessary to land his provisions, of which he had already been short for many weeks, in order to prevent his army being actually starved into submission. This was done under a heavy fire from the American troops, who were posted on the opposite side of the river. On one of these occasions, a person by the name of Mr. ---, at Salem, and a foreigner by birth, and who had at the very time a son in the British army, crossed the river at De Ridder's with a person by the name of M'Neil; they went in a canoe, and arriving opposite to the place intended, crossed over to the western bank, on which a redoubt called Fort Lawrence had been erected. They crawled up the bank with their arms in their hands, and peeping over the upper edge, they saw a man in a blanket coat, loading a cart. They instantly raised their guns to fire, an action more savage than commendable. At the moment the man turned so as to be more plainly seen, old Mr. --- said to his companion, now that's my own son Hughy, but I'll d-'d for a' that if I sill not gi' him a shot. He then actually fired at his own son, as the person really proved to be, but happily without effect. Having heard the noise made by their conversation, and the cocking of their pieces, which the nearness of his position rendered perfectly practicable, he ran round the cart, and the balls lodged in the felloe of the wheel. The report drew the attention of the neighboring guards, and the two marauders were driven from their lurking place. While retreating with all possible speed M'Niel was wounded in the shoulder and while alive carried the wound about him unhealed to his last day. Had the ball struck the old Scotchman, it is questionable whether any one would have considered it more than even-handed justice, commending the chalice to his own lips.
At the time Governor George Clinton, to whose indefatigable exertions the state of New York owes more than she could repay, ordered out the militia of the different counties, and at their head proceeding northward in hopes of cutting off the retreat of Sir John Johnson, he advanced as far as Crown point without meeting the enemy. On his arrival at that post, and hearing nothing of Sir John, my father and John Benson, known and distinguished as bare foot Benson, who were volunteers at the time, were selected by Governor Clinton, as scouts, to proceed from that post through a dense howling wilderness, as far as Schroon lake, for the purpose of ascertaining by the trail of the Indians whether Sir John had passed between the two lakes. With only one ration for each, and nothing for their guide but a small pocket compass, they set out with their usual firmness and intrepidity. After traveling over steep and rugged mountains, and through deep, dark, and dismal ravines, they at length reached Schroon lake, without making any discovery, in time to return as far back as the Beaver meadows, about two miles west of the head of Brant lake, the first night. During the night, by way of precaution, they deemed it advisable to separate, that, in case they should be discovered by Indians, who were constantly lurking about the country, there might be a better chance, for one of them at least, to make his escape and give the alarm. Accordingly they lay down in the tall grass about fifteen or twenty rods apart, for their repose, during the night. About three o'clock in the morning, as near as they could judge, they heard a rustling in the grass, about equi-distant from them both, and soon after heard a stepping, like some person cautiously approaching, which they supposed at the time to be the step of some Indian who might have discovered them at the time they concealed themselves in the grass. On the approach of the object within the circle of their faint vision, they both, as if by concert, though ignorant of each others intentions, being determined to sell their lives as dear as possible, raised. themselves on one knee, levelled their pieces, and fired at the same instant. As soon as they fired, they heard a groan and momentary struggle in the grass, when all again was still as the abodes of death. They then reloaded, and resumed their former positions, but there was no more sleep for them during the remainder of that night. Soon after day break, and when there was light sufficient to discern objects at a distance, they took an observation, and seeing no enemy near, they advanced to ascertain the result of their encounter in the night, when behold, to their surprise, they found they had killed a famous great - deer !
having their own sport for a while, they started on their return for the camp,
by a different route from the one they came, and which they supposed would
be nearer, but they had not gone far among the mountains, before the needle
to their compass refused to perform its duty, owing no doubt to some neighboring
which operated more powerfully than the pole. After wandering about for some time, in a dark and dismal forest, it being a dark and cloudy day, they became bewildered and finally got lost. Thus they continued to travel through the day, and found themselves at night near the place where they started from in the morning. By this time, having fasted twenty-four hours, their appetites became so sharp they thought they would make a meal out of the deer they had fortuitously killed the night before ; but on their arrival at the spot they found that the wolves or some other animals had devoured it, and left not even a bone. They then laid themselves down for repose, on the same bed of grass they had occupied the night of the encounter. The next morning they again started for the camp, by the same route they came the first day, though somewhat faint for the want of food. About ten o'clock they came across a knapsack, which had been lost or left in the woods, by some person to them unknown, containing a lot of boiled pork, bread and cheese promiscuously thrown in together, and out of which Benson made a hearty meal ; but my father, having so strong an aversion even to the smell of cheese that he refused to taste a mouthful of any of the contents of the knapsack ; and accordingly stood it out until he arrived at camp, about three o'clock in the afternoon of the third day, where they were received, with much joy, by the governor and his staff, who had given them up for lost. It was thus ascertained that Sir John, with his horde of Indians, had not retreated in that direction, and the governor gave up all hopes of intercepting them on this occasion, and returned home.
As I have pledged myself, in my introduction, to give all the principal facts connected with Burgoyne's campaign, as far as they have come to my knowledge, and as I am not writing to please any particular individual or class of readers, I will relate the following incident, which is often spoken of even to this day.
The inhabitants throughout this part of the country, having been much harassed by the Indians and tories, and in constant danger of their lives, were consequently under the necessity, for their own safety, of building, at different stations, what they termed block-houses.
These buildings were constructed of logs flattened on two sides and locked or halved together at the angles or corners, which rendered them strong and proof against rifle or musket balls. On each side, about six feet from the bottom, was an interstice or narrow space between the logs, for the purpose, in case of a siege or an attack, of thrusting their guns through to fire on the besiegers, below this open space a platform was erected about two feet from the floor, to stand upon while firing. The buildings were constructed without windows, and with but one door, which was made strong, and when occupied, this was strongly barricaded. To these buildings, when it was known or suspected there were Indians or tories in the vicinity, a number of families would resort during the night, leaving their own dwellings much exposed, and many of which were plundered and consumed.
The block-houses were often attacked, and some-times with considerable force, but as near as I have been able to learn, without much success, though with some loss to the assailants.
It happened during a considerable interval of time, in which no Indians had been seen in the neighborhood, that the inhabitants ceased resorting to their block-houses. At this time a man by the name of Joseph Seely, whose vicious habits generally led him more to the gratification of his own evil propensities, than the public weal, and who had been out one day on a hunting excursion, for which he was very famous, and not fastidious about the kind of game he bagged, even if it was a turkey or a fowl that might accidentally come in his way, returned from the woods, saying he had come across a party of Indians and tories, at whom he had fired, and as he thought, killed one. The alarm was immediately spread throughout the neighborhood, and the men all armed themselves, and flocked together, for the purpose of going in pursuit. On being led by Seely to the place where he said lie had shot at the Indians, they found a trail of blood extending some distance through the woods, which led them on the course they concluded it best to pursue, not doubting, from the circumstances of the blood, that he had severely wounded, if not killed, one of the Indians or Tories
After traveling some miles and finding no enemy, they concluded they might have secreted themselves in the neighborhood, with the intention of committing their savage deeds during the following night. Accordingly they all returned home, it being near night, and for safety, after secreting as much of their effects as they conveniently could, they and their families resorted to their blockhouses, and by turns kept watch for the enemy during the night ; but none appeared to molest them.
The next morning they very cautiously returned to their several homes, and many of them with the expectation of finding their property destroyed, and their "dwellings in ashes. About ten o'clock, this mischief-bent hero of the forest, after having his own sport at the expense of his neighbors, and feeling conscious he had carried the joke too far, finally disclosed the whole secret. Having spent the whole forenoon of the previous day, and finding no game, on his return came across a flock of sheep, and from his natural propensity to mischief, he fired among them, and badly wounded one, when they all ran into the woods. On pursuing them some distance to see if the wounded sheep died, he observed the blood trickled along on the leaves, upon which he thought he would raise a "hue and cry," and alarm the neighborhood, by the horrible story he told of having seen and shot an Indian.
The following daring feat was performed by the author's great-uncle. Captain Hezekiah Dunham, who commanded a militia company in the vicinity of Bemis's heights, a staunch whig, and a firm friend to the American cause.
One evening as he was at a public entertainment, a boy was seen emerging from the woods in the neighborhood on horseback, and presently approaching the
place where the people were collected, asked if he could purchase a little rum. When he was answered no, he immediately mounted, returned a considerable distance, and then was seen galloping down the main road by the river. On seeing this Dunham exclaimed, " This means something, I am sure of it." He then watched for the boy's return, and in a few minutes he repassed at full speed. He then reentered the wood, and was gone from their sight in an instant. Dunham's penetration induced him to say, " The enemy is near us, the Tories are in our neighborhood, and not far off." He separated from his company, with a determination to act immediately.
Dunham, when he reached home, immediately went to a person by the name of Green, who was a son of Vulcan and of Mars, and an able-bodied, bold, and persevering fellow. He was the pride of his settlement, and the safe-guard of the people around him-always ready for action, never desponding, and fearless to an extent that was remarkable. He was always relied upon in trying emergencies by the leading men in the vicinity, and what completed his merits, he was never backward. Dunham related the circumstance to him, and declared his belief that there was a party of Tories in the neighborhood.
Three other persons were called upon the same night for assistance, and when the rest of their neighbors were asleep, these hardy men commenced their reconnaissance. Every suspected spot was carefully approached in hopes of finding the objects of their search. Every hollow that could contain a hiding place was looked into; but in a more particular manner the out-houses and barns of those persons who were suspected for their attachment to the enemy, were examined by them. It seemed all in vain. No traces of a concealed foe were discovered, when toward day-break it was proposed to separate and make one final search for that time. Dunham took two men with him, and Green but one. The former as a last effort returned to the house of one ----, who it was probable would be in communication with an enemy if near him. As he approached the house he had to pass a meadow adjoining, and observed a path leading from the house to a small thicket of about three acres in extent. Dunham immediately suspected it led to his enemy. He pursued it, and found it passed around the thicket, and when it almost met the place where it turned off, the path entered the wood. Dunham paused, and turning to his companions said, " Here they are, will you follow me ?" They instantly agreed to accompany him, and the party moved on in single file, with light and cautious steps. As they got nearly to the centre, Dunham in advance, a log stopped up the path, and seemed to prevent any farther approach. With a motion that indicated the necessity of their remaining still, he mounted the log, and looking over, discovered, sure enough, at once a desired and yet imposing sight. Around the remains of a watch-fire, which daybreak rendered less necessary, sat a group of five fierce looking men, with countenances relaxed from their usual fixedness ; but yet betokening boldness, if not savageness of purpose. They were dressing themselves, and putting on their shoes and stockings, which stood beside their rude couches. Their clothes were much worn, but had a military cut, which making their stout and muscular forms more apparent, gave them a peculiar snug fit, and distinguished them from the loose, slovenly, scarecow figures which the homely character of our country seamstresses imposed upon everything rural or rusticated among our people. Their hats or caps were set carelessly on their heads, with the air of regulars, and what made them still more observed was, that every man of them had his musket at his side on the ground, ready to be used at an instant's notice. Dunham surveyed this scene a few moments, and then drew back cautiously to his companions. In a tone not above a whisper, he said, " Shall we take 'em ?" A nod from his companions decided him-each now examined his musket, and reprimed it. The captain took the right of the little band, and they moved forward to the log. They mounted it at the same instant, and as they did so, Dunham cried out, " surrender or you are all dead men !" The group that thus found themselves almost under the " muzzles of their enemies' guns," were indeed astonished. All but their leader, Thomas Lovelass, seemed petrified and motionless. This resolute man seemed disposed to make an effort for their lives. Twice amid the silence and stillness of the perilous moment, he stretched out his hand to seize his gun. Each time he was prevented by the near approach of the muzzle that pointed at his head, and beyond which he saw an unflinching eye steadfastly fixed upon him , at the same instant he was told, that if he touched it he was a dead man.
At this critical period of the rencontre, Dunham peremptorily ordered the party to come out, one by one, which they reluctantly did, fearing perhaps that they were surrounded by and in contact with a superior force. As fast as one came over the log he was secured by the most powerful man of the three, while the other two kept their pieces steadily pointed at the prisoners. Some young women who proved to be sisters of some of the party, gave way to the most violent grief. Well aware of the danger they were in, and the speedy vengeance inflicted upon tones and spies, they anticipated the most dreadful consequences to their unhappy brothers, and no words can express the frantic sorrow to which they abandoned themselves. The young men themselves assumed an air of firmness, but it was easily penetrated. They confessed that their intention was to capture and take off some of the most active whigs in the neighborhood. One of the prisoners, upon promise of quarter, informed that he belonged to a party of fifteen, who had come down from Canada on the same business - who were then, in various disguises, scattered through the country to ascertain the state of affairs for the benefit of the British general in Canada, who was planning an inroad, and that they had left their boats concealed on the shores of Lake George, The country was at that time overrun with spies and traitors. Robberies were frequent, and the inhabitants (non-combatants), carried prisoners to Canada. General Schuyler's house was robbed and two of his servants or life-guards carried there. The general saved himself by retiring to his chamber, barricading the door, and firing upon the marauders.
Lovelass and his companions, were taken to the barracks at Saratoga, where they were tried and condemned at a court-martial, of which the celebrated General Stark was president. Lovelass alone suffered death. He was considered too dangerous a man to be permitted to escape. He complained that being found with arms in his hands he was only a prisoner, and many thought that such being the fact he was scarcely punishable as a spy. Indeed he even bewailed his hard fate, and the injustice done him, but found he had nothing to expect from the judges. In two or three days he was brought out of his place of confinement, and suffered death upon the gallows, during a tremendous storm of rain and wind, accompanied with heavy and often repeated claps of thunder, and the most vivid flashes of lightning.1
* * * *
1 The skull of Lovelass is now (1877) in the possession of George Strover Esq., who lives in the old Schuyler mansion at Schuylerville. The spy Was bung a few rods south of his, Mr. Strover's, house.
The following incident, which took place near Oriskany, may be interesting to the reader, as showing the unlimited confidence which might, in those days, be placed in the Indians, when pledged to perform any certain act within their power.
An old Indian named Han-Yerry, who during the war had acted with the royal party, and now resided at Oriskany in a log wigwam which stood on the bank of the creek, just back of the house until recently occupied by Mr. Charles Green, one day called at Judge White's with his wife and a mulatto woman who belonged to him, and who acted as his interpreter. After conversing with him a little while, the Indian asked him,
" Are you my friend ? "
" Yes," said he.
" Well, then,'' said the Indian, " do you believe I am your friend ? "
" Yes, Han-Yerry," replied he, " I believe you are."
The Indian then rejoined, " well, if you are my friend, and you believe I am your friend, I will tell you what I want, and then I shall know whether you speak true words."
" And what is it that you want ? " said Mr. White.
The Indian pointed to a little grandchild, the daughter of one of his sons, then between two and three years old, and said,
" My squaw wants to take this pappoose home with us to stay to-night, and bring her home to-morrow: if you are my friend, you will now show me."
The feelings of the grandfather at once uprose in his bosom, and the child's mother started with horror and alarm at the thought of entrusting her darling prattler with the rude tenants of the forest. The question was full of interest. On the one hand, the necessity of placing unlimited confidence in the savage, and entrusting the welfare and the life of his grandchild with him, on the other the certain enmity of a man of influence and consequence in his nation, and one who had been the open enemy of his countrymen in their recent struggle. But he made the decision with a sagacity which showed that he properly estimated the character of the person he was dealing with. He believed that by placing implicit confidence in him, he should command the sense of honor which seems peculiar to the uncontaminated Indian. He told him to take the child ; and then as the mother, scarcely suffering it to be parted from her, relinquished it into the hands of the old man's wife, he soothed her fears with his assurances of confidence in their promises. That night, however, was a long one, and during the whole of the next morning, many and often were the anxious glances cast upon the pathway leading from Oriskany, if possible to discover the Indians and their little charge, upon their return to its home. But no Indians came in sight. It at length became high noon ; all a mother's fears were aroused ; she could scarcely be restrained from rushing in pursuit of her loved one. But her father represented to her the gross indignity which a suspicion of their intentions would arouse in the breast of the chief; and half frantic though she was, she was restrained. The afternoon slowly wore away, and still nothing was seen of her child. The sun had nearly reached the western horizon, and the mother's heart had swollen beyond further endurance, when the forms of the Indian chief and his wife, bearing upon her shoulders their little visitor, greeted its mother's vision. The dress which the child had worn from home had been removed, and in its place its Indian friends had substituted a complete suit of Indian garments, so as completely to metamorphose it into a little squaw. The sequel of this adventure was the establishment of a most ardent attachment and regard on the part of the Indian and his friends for the white settlers. The child, now Mrs. Eells of Missouri, the widow of the late Nathaniel Eells of Whitesboro, still remembers some incidents occurring on the night of her stay at the wigwam, and the kindness of her Indian hostess.
Another - which occurred in relation to the siege of Fort Stanwix, and which evinced the fortitude and prowess of General Schuyler, in moments of difficulty.
When Colonel Willett and his companion Lieutenant Stockwell left the fort and got beyond the investing party, which was not done without passing through sleeping groups of savages, who lay with their arms at their side, they crossed the river, and found some horses running wild in the woods. They were soon mounted, and with the aid of their bark bridles, stripped from the young trees, they made considerable progress on their journey. It is well known that they reached Stillwater village, and begged a reinforcement. General Schuyler, who then quartered in the house of Dirck Swart, Esq., now standing at the foot of the hill, and occupied by Mrs. Williams, called a council of his officers, and asked their advice. It is perhaps not generally known that he was opposed by them. As he walked about in the greatest anxiety, urging them to come to his opinion, he overheard some of them saying, "he means to weaken the army." The emotions of the veteran were always violent at the recollection of this charge. At the instant when he heard the remark, he found that he had bitten a pipe, which he had been smoking, into several pieces, without being conscious of what he had done. Indignantly he exclaimed, " Gentlemen, I shall take the responsibility upon myself; where is the brigadier that will take command of the relief ? I shall beat up for volunteers to-morrow." The brave, the gallant, the ill fated Arnold started up with his characteristic quickness, and offered to take command of the expedition. In the morning the drum beat for volunteers, and two hundred hardy fellows capable of standing great fatigue, offered their services and were accepted. The result of his efforts is well known. To General Schuyler's promptness and fearlessness, therefore, due credit should be given.
* * * * * *
Another-in relation to the same siege may be interesting to the reader.
A man by the name of Baxter, who resided in the vicinity of the fort, being a disaffected man, had been sent to Albany, to be watched by the committee of safety. Two sons of his remained behind, and were extremely industrious, taking every opportunity to keep their farm in order, notwithstanding its being in the vicinity of the hostile parties. They were so successful, and so little disturbed by the British, that the Americans began to suspect that they were on too good terms with the enemy. Their father's character kept up the suspicion. One day, as it subsequently appeared, one of sons, who was working with a wheel plough, in cut his furrows, would every few minutes approach a fence which was between him and the enemy. After several turns, as he was making his last cut across the field, he felt his hands suddenly grasped with violence. Impelled by a natural desire to escape, he Jumped forward, and seizing his plough cleaver, he turned on his antagonist, who was an Indian, and felled him to the ground. But a second approached, and with equal dexterity and nerve he dealt a second blow, which levelled the savage. Both were stunned, their heads being too obvious to escape the terrible blow of the plough cleaver.
As they lay on the ground, he alternately struck them over their heads with all his might, and then setting his horses clear from the plough, he came to the fort and told them what had happened. His tale was not believed, and when he offered to lead them to the spot, they suspected further treachery. They detained him to abide the event, and sent out a detachment to ascertain how the fact was ; and these found two savages lying dead at the place he mentioned. This brave feat procured the release of the father, and indeed rescued the whole family from the imputation of toryism forever.
Another-respecting Abraham D. Quackenboss, as being connected with the battle of Oriskany, may also be interesting.
Abraham D. Quackenboss, resided in the Mohawk country on the south side of the river, at the breaking out of the war. Living as it were among the Indians, he spoke their language as well as he did his own, Among them he had a friend, named Bronkahorse-who, though an Indian, had been his playmate, and they had served in the French war together under Sir William Johnson. When the revolutionary troubles came on, Bronkahorse called upon Quackenboss, and endeavored to persuade him to espouse the cause of the king - assuring him that their Great Father could never be conquered. Quackenboss refused, and they parted. The Indian, however, assuring him that they parted as friends, although, since they had fought in one war together he had hoped they might do so in the other. Mr. Quackenboss saw no more of his friend until the battle of Oriskany. During the thickest of the fight he heard his name called in the well known voice of Bronkahorse, from behind a large tree near by. He was himself sheltered by a tree, but in looking out for the warriors he saw his Indian friend. The latter now importuned Quackenboss to surrender, assuring him of kind treatment and protection, but also assuring him unless he did so, he would inevitably be killed. Quackenboss refused, and the Indian thereupon attempted to kill him. For a moment they watched each other endeavoring to obtain the first and best chance of a shot. The Indian at length fired, and his ball struck the tree, but had nearly been fatal. Springing from his covert upon the Indian, Qjuackenboss fired, and his friend Bronkahorse fell dead on the spot. It was the belief of Mr. Quackenboss that the loss of the enemy during that battle equalled that of Herkimer's command. The latter suffered the most severely in the early part of the engagement - the enemy in the latter part.
Copyright © 1998, -- 2003. Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.