The Pictorial Field-Book
of The Revolution
by Benson J. Lossing
Chapter 10, Part Two
By their customs an adopted son had all the privileges of a son by birth. When Dupuys had a sufficient number of bateaux finished, this young man went to his foster-father, and in a solemn manner related that he had dreamed, the previous night, that he was at a feast, where the guests ate and drank every thing that was set before them. He then asked the old chief to permit him to make such a feast for the tribe. The request was granted, and the feast was spread. Many Frenchmen were present, and with horns, drums, and trumpets, they kept a continual uproar. The French, in the mean while, were diligently embarking and loading their bateaux, unobserved by the feasting savages. At length the guests, who had been eating and drinking for hours, ceased gormandizing, to take some repose. The young Frenchman commenced playing upon a guitar, and in a few minutes every red man was in a profound slumber. He then joined his companions, and before morning the whole colony were far on their way toward Oswego. Late the next day the Indians stood wondering at the silence that prevailed in the dwellings of the whites, and when, at evening, having seen no signs of human life through the day, they ventured to break open the fastened dwellings, they were greatly astonished at finding every Frenchman gone; and greater was their perplexity in divining the means by which they escaped, being entirely ignorant of their having any vessels(1)
Ten years afterward another French colony settled in what now is called Pompey, about fourteen miles from Syracuse, and for three years it prospered, and many converts were made to the Catholic faith from the Onondaga tribe. A company of Spaniards, having been informed of a lake whose bottom was covered with brilliant scales like silver, arrived there, and in a short time the animosities of the respective adventurers caused them to accuse each other to the Indians of foul designs upon the tribes. The Onondagas believed both parties, and determined to rid themselves of such troublesome neighbors. Assisted by the Oneidas and Cayugas, they fell upon the colony on All-Saints' day, 1669, and every Frenchman and Spaniard was massacred.(2)
Evidences of much earlier visits by Europeans have been found in the vicinity, among which was a sepulchral stone that was exhumed near Pompey Hill. It was of an oblong figure, being fourteen inches long by twelve wide, and about eight inches in thickness. In the center of the surface was a figure of a tree, and a serpent climbing it; and upon each side of the tree was an inscription, as seen in the cut: "Leo X., De Vix, 1520. L. S. + (AN Upside down U)." This inscription may be thus translated: "Leo X., by the grace of God; sixth year of his pontificate, 1520." The letters L. S. were doubtless the initials of the one to whose memory the stone was set up. The cross denoted that he was a Roman Catholic, but the meaning of the inverted U is not so clear. It has been supposed that the stone was carved on the spot by a friend of the deceased, who may have been one of several French or Spanish adventurers that found their way hither from Florida, which was discovered by the Spaniards in 1502. They were amused and excited by stories of a lake far in the north, whose bottom was lined with silver, and this was sufficient to cause them to peril every thing in searching it out. De Soto's historian speaks, in the course of his narrative of the adventures of that commander in the interior of America, of extreme cold at a place called by the natives Saquechama. It is supposed that this name and Susquehanna are synonymous appellations for the country in Central New York, and that the silver-bottomed lake was the Onondaga, the flakes and crystals of salt which cover its bottom giving it the appearance of silver.(3)
1 See extracts from a MS. history of Onondaga county, by
Rev. J. W. Adams, of Syracuse, quoted in the Historical Collections of New
York, p. 398.
2 Dewitt Clinton's Memoir on the Antiquities of Western New York.
3 See Clinton's Memoir, &c.; also, Sandford's Aborigines, note on page 114. The crystals of salt on the bottom of the lake, into which the salt springs flow, were, like the scales of mica discovered on the eastern coast by Gosnold and his party, mistaken for laminae of silver. There are not many salt springs near the
We have already noticed the expedition of the French, under Frontenac, as far as the Onondaga Valley. From that time nothing but Indian feuds disturbed the repose that rested upon Onondaga Lake and the beautiful country around, until business enterprise within the present century began its warfare upon the forests and the rich soil.
I arrived at Rome, upon the Mohawk, toward noon. It is a pleasant village, and stands upon the site of old Fort Stanwix, on the western verge of the historical ground of the Mohawk Valley. Here was the outpost of active operations in this direction, and here was enacted one of the most desperate defenses of a fortress that occurred during our struggle for independence. The village, in its rapid growth, has overspread the site of the fortification, and now not a vestige of antiquity remains, except a large elm-tree by the house of Alvah Mudge, Esq., which stood within the southwest angle of the fort. Mr. Mudge kindly pointed out to me the area comprehended within the fort, and the portion of the village seen in the picture covers that area. The mason-work in the foreground is a part of the first lock of the Black River Canal, at present an unproductive work. The large building in the center of the picture is the mansion of John Striker, Esq., president of the Rome Bank, and stands near the site of the northeast angle of the fort. The whole view is only a few rods northwest of the Mohawk River, and a mile eastward of Wood Creek, the- main inlet of Oneida Lake. Here was a portage of a mile, and the only interruption of water communication between Schenectady and Oswego. This inconvenience was obviated by the construction of a canal between the Mohawk and Wood Creek, in 1797.
Fort Stanwix was built in 1758, under the direction of General Stanwix, after the defeat of Abercrombie at Ticonderoga. It was a strong square fortification, having bomb-proof bastions, a glacis, covered way, and a well-picketed ditch around the ramparts. Its position was important in a military point of view, for it commanded the portage between the Mohawk and Wood Creek, and was a key to communication between the Mohawk Valley and Lake Ontario. Other, but smaller, fortifications were erected in the vicinity. Fort Newport, on Wood Creek, and Fort Ball, about half way across the portage, formed a part of the military works there, and afforded not only a strong post of resistance to French aggression in that direction, but also a powerful protection to the Indian trade. The works cost the British and Colonial government two hundred and sixty-six thousand four hundred dollars, yet when the Revolution broke out the fort and its outposts were in ruins.
From the commencement of hostilities the Mohawk Valley was a theater of great activity, and all through the eventful years of the contest it suffered dreadfully from the effects of partisan warfare. Every rood of ground was trodden by hostile parties, and for seven years the fierce Indian, and the ofttimes more ferocious Tory, kept the people in continual alarm, spreading death and desolation over that fair portion of our land. So frequent and sanguinary were the stealthy midnight attacks or open daylight struggles, that Tryon
surface, but under the marshes that surround Onondaga Lake, and beneath the lake itself, there seems to lie a vast salt lake, and shafts are sunken from the surface above into it. The water or brine is pumped up from these shafts or wells, and vast quantities of salt are manufactured annually in the neighborhood of Syracuse. A great number of men find employment there, and the state derives a handsome revenue from the works.
county(1) obtained the appropriate appellation of "the dark and bloody ground," and, long after peace blessed the land, its forests were traversed with fear and distrust. Here was the seat of Sir William Johnson (2) agent for the British government in its transactions with the SIX NATIONS. He was shrewd, cunning, and licentious, having little respect for the laws of God or man, and observed them only so far as compliance was conducive to his personal interest. By presents, conformity in dress and manners, and other appliances, he obtained almost unbounded influence over the tribes of the valley, and at his beck a thousand armed warriors would rush to the field. He died before the events of our Revolution brought his vast influence over the Indians into play, in active measures against the patriots. Yet his mantle of power and moral sway fell, in a great degree, upon his son, Sir John Johnson, who succeeded to his title, office, and estates. The latter, his cousin Guy Johnson, Thayendanegea (Brant) the Mohawk sachem, Daniel Claus, and the Butlers were the leading spirits of loyalty in Tryon county, and the actors and abettors of scenes that darken the blackest page in the history of our race. These will be noticed hereafter. For the present we will confine our thoughts to the most prominent local events immediately antecedent to the siege of Fort Stanwix, or Schuyler, upon the site of which, at Rome, we are standing. (1765.) The excitement of the Stamp Act reached even the quiet valley of the Mohawk, and implanted there the seeds of rebellion, and the people were eager listeners while the conflict of power and principle was going on upon the sea-board, during the ten years preceding the organization of the Continental army. (1775) The meeting of the general Continental Congress caused opinions to take a definite shape and expression, and in the autumn of that year the demarkation line between patriots and Loyalists was distinctly drawn among the people of this inland district.
In the spring of 1775, just before the second Congress assembled at Philadelphia, at a court holden at Johnstown, the Loyalists made a demonstration against the proceedings of
1 Tryon county then included all the colonial settlements
in New York west and southwest of Schenectady.
It was taken from Albany county in 1772, and named in honor of William Tryon,
then governor of the province. The name was changed to Montgomery in 1784.
The county buildings were at Johns. town, where was the residence of Sir
William Johnson (still standing).
2 Sir William Johnson was born in Ireland, about the year 1714. He was a nephew of Sir Peter Warren, the commodore who was distinguished in the attack on Louisburgh, Cape Breton, 1745. Sir Peter married a lady (Miss Watts) in New York, purchased large tracts of land upon the Mohawk, and about 1734 young Johnson was induced to come to America and take charge of his uncle's affairs in that quarter. He learned the Indian language, adopted their manners, and, by fair trade and conciliatory conduct, won their friendship and esteem. He built a large stone mansion on the Mohawk, about three miles west of Amsterdam, where he resided twenty years previous to the erection of Johnson Hall at Johnstown. It was fortified, and was called Fort Johnson. It is still standing, a substantial specimen of the domestic architecture of that period. In 1755 he commanded a force intended to invest Crown Point. He was attacked by Dieskau at the head of Lake George, where he came off victorious. For this he was made major general and a knight. He commanded the assault upon Niagara, after the death of Prideaux, and was successful there. He was never given credit for great military skill or personal bravery, and was more expert in intriguing with Indian warriors, and sending them to the field, than in leading disciplined troops boldly into action. He died at Johnson Hall (Johnstown) on the 11th of July, 1774, aged 60 years.
the National Council, by drawing up and obtaining signatures to a declaration disapproving of the acts of that body in the preceding autumn. This proceeding of the Tories aroused the indignation of the Whigs, who composed a considerable majority of the whites in Tryon county. Committees were appointed and public meetings were called in every district in the county. The first was held at the house of John Veeder, in Caughnawaga,(1) where patriotic speeches were made, and a liberty pole, a most offensive object to the eyes of the Loyalists, was erected. Before this was accomplished, Sir John Johnson, accompanied by Colonel Claus, Guy Johnson, and Colonel John Butler, with a large number of their retainers, armed with swords and pistols, arrived upon the ground and interrupted the proceedings. Guy Johnson mounted a high stoop near the old church and harangued the people. He expatiated upon the strength of the king and government, and the folly of opposing the authority of the crown. He had not a conciliatory word for the people, but denounced their proceedings in virulent and abusive language, so irritating, that Jacob Sammons, a leader among the Whigs, could no longer restrain himself, but boldly pronounced the speaker a liar and a villain. Johnson leaped from his tribune and seized Sammons by the throat; one of his party felled the patriot to the ground by a blow from a loaded whip-handle, and then bestrode his body. When Sammons recovered from the momentary stupor, he hurled the fellow from him, and, springing upon his feet, stripped off his coat and prepared to fight, when he was again knocked down. Most of his Whig friends had fled in alarm, and he was carried to his father's house, "bearing upon his body the first scars of the Revolutionary contest in the county of Tryon."(3)
A spirited Whig meeting was held soon afterward, in Cherry Valley, where the conduct of the Tories at Johnstown was strongly condemned; but in the Palatine district and other places the threats and the known strength of the Johnsons and their friends intimidated the Whigs for a while.
In the mean time, Colonel Johnson fortified the baronial hall by planting swivels around it. He paraded the militia, armed the Scotch Highlanders (who lived in the vicinity of Johnstown, and were Roman Catholics), and by similar acts, hostile to the popular movement, the suspicions of the Whigs were confirmed that he was preparing for the suppression of all patriot demonstrations in the county, and was inciting the Indians to join the enemies
1 Caughnawaga is the ancient name of the Indian village
that stood a little eastward of the present village of Fonda. Its name signifies
coffin, and was given to the place in consequence of there being in the
Mohawk, opposite the village, a black stone (still to be seen) resembling
a coffin, and projecting above the surface at low water.-Historical Collections
of New York, p. 281.
2 This old church, now (1848) known as the Fonda Academy, under the management of Rev. Douw Van Olinda, is about half a mile east of the court-house, in.the village of Fonda. It is a stone edifice, and was erected in 1763 by voluntary contributions. Sir William Johnson contributed liberally. Its first pastor was Thomas Romayne, who was succeeded in 1795 by Abraham Van Horn, one of the earliest graduates of King's (now Columbia) College, in the city of New York. He was from Kingston, Ulster county, and remained its pastor until 1840. During his ministry he united in marriage 1500 couples. The church was without a bell until the confiscated property of Sir John Johnson was sold in the Revolution, when the dinner-bell of his father was purchased and hung in the steeple. The bell weighs a little more than one hundred pounds, and bears the following inscription: ., S. R. William Johnson, baronet, 1774. Made by Miller and Ross, in Eliz. Town."-Simms's Schoharie County, &c.
Over the door of the church is a stone tablet, with this inscription in Dutch: "Komt laett ons op gaen tot den Bergh des Heeren, to den huyse des godes Jacobs, op dat hy ons leere van syne wegen, en dat wy wandel in syne paden, "English," Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord; to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths."
3 Stone's Life of Brant, i., 53.
of liberty as soon as actual hostilities should commence.(1) Another circumstance confirmed these suspicions. Brant was the secretary of Colonel Guy Johnson, the superintendent of Indian affairs after the death of Sir William, and his activity in visiting the tribes and holding secret conferences with the sachems was unceasing. Suddenly his former friendly inter. course with Mr. Kirkland, the faithful Christian missionary, was broken off in 1774, and, at Brant's instigation, an Oneida chief preferred charges against the pious minister to Guy Johnson, and asked for his removal. It was well known that Mr. Kirkland was a Whig,(2) and this movement of the wily sachem could not be misinterpreted. But the Oneida nation rallied in support of the minister, and his removal was for a time delayed.
During the summer of 1775 the Johnsons were very active in winning the Six Nations from their promises of neutrality in the coming contest.(3) A council of the Mohawks was held at Guy Park in May, at the council, but the result (1775.) which was attended by delegates from the Albany and the Tryon county Committees. Little Abraham, brother of the famous Hendrick who was killed near Lake George, was the principal chief of the Mohawks, and their best speaker on the occasion. Guy Johnson, the Indian agency, was in attendance at the council, but the result was unsatisfactory to both parties. The delegates, cognizant of the disaffection and bad faith of the Indians, could not rely upon their present promises; and Guy Johnson, alarmed at the events at Lexington and Concord, and by intimations which he had received that this person was in danger of seizure by order of the General Congress, broke up the council abruptly, and immediately directed the assembling of another at the Upper Castle, on the German Flats, whither himself and family, attended by a large retinue of Mohawks, at once repaired. But this council was not held, and Johnson, with his family and the Indians, pushed on to Fort Stanwix. His sojourn there was brief, .and he moved on to Ontario, far beyond the verge of civilization. Brant and the Butlers attended him. and there a large council was held, composed chiefly of Cayugas and Senecas.
Thus far no positive acts of hostility had been committed by Guy Johnson and his friends, yet his design to alienate the Indians and prepare them for war upon the patriots was un. doubted. His hasty departure with his family to the wilderness, accompanied by a large train of Mohawk warriors, and the holding a grand council in the midst of the fierce Cayugas
1 See letter of the Palatine Committee to the Committee
of Safety at Albany, dated May 18th, 1775.
2 Samuel Kirkland was son of the pious minister, Daniel Kirkland, of Norwich, Connecticut. He learned the language of the Mohawks, was ordained a missionary to the Indians at Lebanon in 1766, and removed his wife to the Oneida Castle in 1769. The next spring he removed to the house of his friend, General Herkimer, near Little Falls, where his twin children were born, one of whom was the late Dr. Kirkland, president of Harvard College. The very air of Norwich seemed to give the vitality of freedom to its sons, and Mr. Kirkland early imbibed those patriotic principles which distinguished him through life. His attachment to the republican cause was well known, and, after the battles of Lexington and Concord, the provincial Congress of Massachusetts, desirous of securing either the friendship or neutrality of the Six Nations, sent a letter to him inclosing an address to the Indians, and requesting him to use his influence in obtaining the ends in view. Mr. Kirkland succeeded in securing the attachment of the Oneidas to the patriot cause, and continued his religious labors among them during the war, when the other tribes, through the influence of Brant and the Johnsons, had taken up arms for the king. He officiated as chaplain to the American forces in the vicinity of his labors, and accompanied Sullivan in his expedition in 1779. The state of New York, in consideration of his patriotic services, gave him the lands of the "Kirkland patent," in the town of Kirkland. After 40 years' service for his God and country, he fell asleep at Paris, Oneida county, on the 28th of March, 1808, in the 67th year of his age.
3 General Schuyler had held a conference with the chiefs of the SIX NATIONS during the previous winter, and, setting before them the nature of the quarrel that had led to hostile movements, received from them solemn promises that they would remain neutral.
3 This was the residence of Guy Johnson, and is still standing, on the north side of the Mohawk, about a mile from the village of Amsterdam, in Montgomery county. It is substantially built of stone, and may stand a century yet. Embowered in trees, it is a beautiful summer residence.
and Senecas, greatly alarmed the people of the lower valley,(1) inasmuch as his reply to a letter from the Provincial Congress of New York, which he wrote from the council room in the wilderness, glowed with sentiments of loyalty. It was, moreover, (July 8, 1775.) positively asserted that he was collecting a large body of savages on that remote frontier, to fall upon the inhabitants of the valley, and this belief was strengthened by the fact that Sir John Johnson, who held a commission of brigadier general of militia, remained at Johnson Hall, then fortified and surrounded by a large body of Loyalists. The alarmed patriots appealed to the Committee of Safety at Albany for protection, and every preparation was made to avert the threatened disaster. Guy Johnson, however, did not return to the valley, but went to Oswego, where he called another council, and then, accompanied by a large number of chiefs and warriors of the Six Nations, among whom was Brant, departed for Canada. He descended the St. Lawrence to Montreal, where he met Sir Guy Carleton and Sir Frederic Haldimand, then governor of Canada, with whom the Indians entered into a formal agreement to take up arms for the king.(2) These were the Indians who appeared against the Americans at St. John's, on the Sorel, and who, in connection with some Caughnawagas, made the terrible massacre of Major Sherburne's corps at the Cedars in the following spring, noticed in a previous chapter.
These movements of the Johnsons and their friends, the strengthening of Johnson Hall, the military organization of the Scotch Highlanders in the vicinity, the increasing alienation of the Indians, the boldness of the Tories, and the continual alarm of the people of Tryon county, caused the General Congress, in December, 1775, to take active measures in that direction. The Dutch and Germans in the Mohawk Valley, Schoharie, Cherry Valley, and, indeed, in all parts of that extensive country, were ardent Whigs; and the Highlanders, with the retainers of the Johnsons and their friends, composed the bulk of the Tory population, except a few desperate men who looked for plunder and reward. Had these alone been inimical to the patriots, there would have been little alarm; but the country swarmed with Indians, who were hourly becoming more and more hostile to the Whigs, through the influence of the Johnsons and their powerful ally, Joseph Brant. It was also reported that military stores were collected at Johnson Hall, and that three hundred Indians were ready to fall upon the whites when Sir John Johnson should give the signal. Congress, therefore, ordered General Schuyler (who had returned to Albany from Lake Champlain, on account of ill health) to take such measures as he should think proper to seize the military stores, to apprehend the Tory leaders, and to disarm the loyal inhabitants. He had no troops at command, but, aided by the Albany Committee of Safety, he soon mustered seven hundred men and marched to Schenectady. The Mohawks of the "Lower Castle" (near Amsterdam), with Little Abraham at their head, had not been seduced by Brant and Johnson, but kept to their promise to remain neutral. To preserve their good-will, Schuyler sent to them a messenger (Mr. Bleecker, the Indian interpreter, then residing at Albany) with a (January 15, 1776.) belt, informing them of the object of his expedition. They were not pleased with the idea of invasion, and a deputation was sent to the general to persuade him to desist. He conferred with them at Schenectady, satisfied them of his good intentions and the necessity of the movement, and then marched on as far as Guy Park. He dispatched a letter at the same time to Sir John Johnson, requesting a personal interview with him. They met at Guy Park in a friendly way, and General Schuyler proposed terms by
1 On the 11th of July, Colonel Herkimer
wrote from Canajoharie to the Palatine Committee, that he had received credible
intelligence that morning that Johnson was ready to march back upon the
settlement with a body of 800 or 900 Indians, and that his point of attack
would be just below the Little Falls. This intelligence proved to be untrue.
2 British historians assert that General Carleton was averse to the employment of the savages against the Americans. Mr. Stone, in his Life of Brant, quotes from a speech of that chief, wherein the reverse is asserted. The British commanders never failed to employ Indians in warfare, when their services could he obtained. Their feelings of humanity doubtless revolted when coalescing with the savages of the forest to butcher their brethren, but with them principle too often yielded to expediency in that unrighteous war.
which the matter might be settled without ,bloodshed. He demanded the immediate surrender of all arms, ammunition, and stores in the possession of Johnson, the delivery to him of alt the arms and military accouterments held by the Tories and Indians, and Sir John's parole of honor not to act inimically to the patriot cause. Sir John asked twenty-four hours for consideration. His reply was unsatisfactory, and Schuyler marched on to (January 18.) Caughnawaga, within four miles of Johnstown. The militia had turned out with alacrity, and his force of seven hundred men had increased to three thousand. Sir John, alarmed, acceded to all the terms proposed by General Schuyler, and the next day that officer proceeded to Johnson Hall, where arms and other munitions of war were surrendered by the baronet. About three hundred Scotchmen also delivered up their arms. Colonel (afterward General) Herkimer was empowered to complete the disarming of the Tories, and General Schuyler and his forces marched back to Albany.
It soon afterward became evident that what Sir John had promised when constrained by fear would not be performed when the cause of that fear was removed. He violated his parole of honor, and the Highlanders began to be as bold as ever in their opposition to the Whigs. Congress thought it dangerous to allow Johnson his liberty, and directed Schuyler to seize his person, and to proceed vigorously against the Highlanders in his interest. Colonel Dayton was intrusted with the command of an expedition for the purpose, and in (1776.) May he proceeded to Johnstown. The baronet had friends among the Loyalists in Albany, by whom he was timely informed of the intentions of Congress. His most valuable articles were put in an iron chest and buried in his garden(1) when he heard of Dayton's approach, and, hastily collecting a large number of his Scotch tenants and other Tories, he fled to the woods by the way of the Sacandaga, where it is supposed they were met by Indians sent from Canada to escort them thither.(2) Amid perils and hardships of every kind, they traversed the wilderness between the head waters of the Hudson and the St. Lawrence, and, after nineteen days' wanderings, arrived at Montreal. Sir John was immediately commissioned a colonel in the British service, raised two battalions of Loyalists called the Johnson Greens, and became one of the bitterest and most implacable enemies of the Americans that appeared during the war. He afterward, as we shall observe, scourged the Mohawk Valley with fire and sword, and spread death and desolation among the frontier settlements even so far south as the Valley of Wyoming.
After the flight of Johnson and the Tories, Tryon county enjoyed a short season of repose, and nothing of importance occurred during the remainder of 1776 and the winter of 1777. Yet the people did not relax their vigilance. The Declaration of Independence was received by them with great joy, but they clearly perceived that much was yet to be done to support that declaration. Congress, too, saw the importance of defending the Northern and Western frontiers of New York from the incursions of the enemy and their savage allies. The fortresses on Lake Champlain were already in their possession, and General Schuyler was ordered to repair and strengthen old Fort Stanwix, then in ruins, and to erect other fortifications, if necessary, along the Mohawk River. Colonel Dayton was charged with the duty
1 Sir John had a faithful black slave, to whom he intrusted
the duty of burying his iron chest. Colonel Volkert Veeder bought the slave
when Johnson Hall was sold, but he would never tell where the treasure was
concealed. Sir John visited the Mohawk Valley in 1780, recovered his slave,
and by his directions found the iron chest.-Simms.
2 This is inferred from a sentence in one of Brant's speeches, quoted by Mr. Stone, as follows: "We then went in a body to a town then in possession of the enemy, anti rescued Sir John Johnson, bringing him fearlessly through the streets." Brant and Guy Johnson were both in England at that time.
Lady Johnson was conveyed to Albany, and there kept for some time, as a sort of hostage for the good conduct of her husband. Among the articles left in Johnson Hall was the family Bible of Sir William. When the confiscated property was sold, the Bible was bought by John Taylor, who was afterward Lieutenant-governor of New York. Perceiving that it contained the family record of the Johnsons, Mr. Taylor wrote to Sir John, offering its restoration. A rude messenger was sent for the Bible. "I have come for Sir William's Bible," he said, "and there are the four guineas which it cost." The man was asked what message Sir John had sent. He replied, "Pay four guineas and take the book."-Stone's Life of Brant, ii., 145
of repairing Fort Stanwix, with the assistance of the Tryon county militia, but he seems to have made little progress, for it was not complete when, in the summer of the next year, it was invested by St. Leger. He named the new fortress Fort Schuyler, in 1777 honor of the commanding general of the Northern Department, and by that appellation it was known through the remainder of the war.(1)
In the course of the spring of 1777, Brant came from Canada, and' appeared among the Mohawks at Oghkwaga,(2) or Oquaca, with a large body of warriors. He had not yet committed any act of hostility within the borders of New York, nor was his presence at the Cedars known in the Mohawk Valley. Yet none doubted his hostile intentions, and his presence gave much uneasiness to the patriots, while the Tories became bolder and more insolent. In June his intentions became more manifest, when he ascended the Susquehanna, from Oghkwaga to Unadilla, with about eighty of his warriors, and requested an interview with the Rev. Mr. Johnstone, of the "Johnstone Settlement." He declared that his object was to procure food for his famished people, and gave the whites to understand that, if provisions were not furnished, the Indians would take them by force. Mr. Johnstone sounded Brant concerning his future intentions, and the chief, without reserve, told him that he had made a covenant with the king, and was not inclined to break it. The people supplied him with food, but the marauders, not satisfied, drove off a large number of cattle, sheep, and swine. As soon as the Indians had departed, not feeling safe in their remote settlement, the whites abandoned it, and took refuge in Cherry Valley. Some families in the neighborhood of Unadilla fled to the German Flats, and others to Esopus and Newburgh, on the Hudson River.
As the Indian forces were constantly augmenting at Oghkwaga, it was determined by General Schuyler and his officers, in council, that Herkimer (now a brigadier) should repair thither and obtain an interview with Brant. Herkimer took with him three hundred Tryon county militia, and invited Brant to meet him at Unadilla. This the chief agreed to. In the mean while, Colonel Van Schaick marched with one hundred and fifty men as far as Cherry Valley, and General Schuyler held himself in readiness to repair to Unadilla if his presence should be needed. These precautions seemed necessary, for they knew not what might be the disposition of Brant.
It was a week after Herkimer arrived at Unadilla before Brant made his appearance. He came accompanied by five hundred warriors. He dispatched a runner to Herkimer to inquire the object of his visit. (3) Herkimer replied that he came to see and converse with
1 This change in the name of the fort, from Stanwix to Schuyler,
produced some confusion, for there was already an old fort at Utica called
Fort Schuyler, so named in honor of Colonel Peter Schuyler, a commander
of provincial troops in the war with the French and Indians.
2 Toward the close of the winter of 1771 a large gathering of Indians was held at Oghkwaga. The Provincial Congress of New York dispatched thither Colonel John Harper, of Harpersfield, to ascertain their intentions. He arrived on the 27th of February, and was well received by the Indians. They expressed their sorrow for the troubles that afflicted Tryon county, and gave every assurance of their pacific dispositions. Colonel Harper believed them, and gave them a feast by roasting an ox. It was afterward discovered that all their friendship was feigned; their professions of peaceful intentions were gross hypocrisy. A few weeks subsequently, while taking a circuit alone through the woods near the head waters of the Susquehanna, Harper met some Indians, who exchanged salutations with him. He recognized one of them as Peter, an Indian whom he had seen at Oghkwaga, but they did not know him. His great-coat covered his uniform, and he feigning to be a Tory, they told him they were on their way to cut off the Johnstone settlement on the east shore of the Susquehanna, near Unadilla. Colonel Harper hastened back to Harpersfield, collected fifteen stout and brave men, and with them gave chase to the marauders. In the course of the following night they came upon the Indians in the valley of Charlotte River. It was almost daylight when their waning fires were discovered. The savages were in a profound slumber. Their arms were silently removed, and then each man of Harper's party, selecting his victim, sprang upon him, and before he was fairly awake the savage found himself fast bound with cords which the whites had brought with them. It was a bolder achievement than if the red men had been killed, and nobler because bloodless. When the day dawned, and the Indians saw their captors, Peter exclaimed, "Ugh! Colonel Harper! Why didn't I know you yesterday?" They were taken to Albany and surrendered into the hands of the Committee of Safety.
3 The real object of the conference is not known. It is supposed that, as Herkimer and Brant had been near neighbors and intimate friends, the former hoped, in a personal interview, to persuade the chief to join
his brother, Captain Brant. "And all these men wish to converse with the chief too?" asked the quick-witted messenger. He returned to Brant and communicated the reply. The parties were encamped within two miles of each other, and the whole assemblage made an imposing display. By mutual agreement, their arms were to be left in their respective encampments. The preliminaries being arranged, Brant and about forty warriors appeared upon the skirt of a distant wood, and the parties met in an open field. A circle was formed, and the two commanders, with attendants, entered it for conference. After exchanging a few words, Brant asked Herkimer the object of his visit. He made the same reply as to the messenger. "And all these have come on a friendly visit too?" said the chief. "All want to see the poor Indians. It is very kind," he added, while his lip curled with a sarcastic smile. After a while the conversation became animated, and finally the chief, being pressed by direct questions concerning his intentions, firmly replied, "That the Indians were in concert with the king, as their fathers had been; that the king's belts were yet lodged with them, and they could not violate their pledge; that General Herkimer and his followers had joined the Boston people against their sovereign; that, although the Boston people were resolute, the king would humble them; that General Schuyler was very smart on the Indians at the treaty of German Flats, but, at the same time, was not able to afford the smallest article of clothing; and, finally, that the Indians had formerly made war on the white people when they were all united, and, as they were now divided, the Indians were not frightened." He also told General Herkimer that a war-path had been opened across the country to Esopus, for the Tories of Ulster and Orange to join them. The conference ended then, with an agreement to meet the next morning at nine o'clock, the respective forces to remain encamped as they were.(1)
During the conference, some remarks made by Colonel Cox greatly irritated the sachem, and on his signal to his warriors, who were near, they ran to their encampment, raised the shrill war-hoop, and returned with their rifles. In the mean while the chief became pacified, and the warriors were kept at a proper distance. Herkimer, however, fearful that Brant's pacific appearance might be feigned, prepared to act with decision on the following morning. He charged an active young soldier, named Wagner, with the duty of shooting Brant, if any hostile movement should appear on the part of the chief. Wagner was to select two assistants, who were to shoot the two attendants of Brant at the same time. He chose Abraham and George Herkimer, nephews of the general, and the three stood by the side of Herkimer the next morning. There was no necessity for their services, and, haply, no blood was shed on the occasion. Mr. Stone seems to have mistaken Herkimer's precaution, in this instance, for premeditated perfidy, and says that, had the intent been perpetrated, the stain upon the character of the provincials would have been such that" all the waters of the Mohawk could not have washed it away." Mr. Wagner was yet living at Fort Plain when I visited that place in 1848, and I have his own authority for saying that the arrangement was only a precautionary one, for which Herkimer deserved praise. Mr. Stone gives his version upon" the written authority of Joseph Wagner himself." Simms has declared, in his "History of Schoharie County," and repeated in conversation with myself, that Wagner told him he never furnished a MS. account of the affair to anyone. Here is some mistake in the matter, but the honorable character of General Herkimer forbids the idea of his having meditated the least perfidy.
Again they met, and the haughty chief-haughty because conscious of strength-as he entered the circle, addressed General Herkimer, and said, "I have five hundred warriors with me, armed and ready for battle. You are in my power, but, as we have been friends and neighbors, I will not take advantage of you." He then gave the signal, and all his warriors, painted in the hideous colors that distinguished them when going into battle, burst
the patriots, or, at least, to remain neutral. It is also
supposed that he went to demand restitution for the cattle, sheep, and swine
of which the savages had plundered the Johnstone and Unidilla Settlements.
1 Campbell's Annals of Tryon County.
from the surrounding forest, gave the war-hoop, and discharged their rifles in the air. Brant coolly advised the general to go back to his house, thanked him for his courtesy on the occasion, expressed a hope that he might one day return the compliment, and then turned proudly upon his heel and disappeared in the shadowy forest. " It was early in July, and the morning was remarkably clear and beautiful. But the echo of the war-hoop had scarcely died away before the heavens became black, and a violent storm obliged each party to seek the nearest shelter. Men less superstitious than many of the unlettered yeomen, who, learning upon their arms, were witnesses of the events of this day, could not fail, in aftertimes, to look back upon the tempest, if not as an omen, at least as an emblem, of those bloody massacres with which these Indians and their associates subsequently visited the inhabitants of this unfortunate frontier.(1)"
A few days after this conference, Brant withdrew his warriors from the Susquehanna and joined Sir John Johnson and Colonel John Butler, who were collecting a large body of Tories and refugees at Oswego, preparatory to a descent upon the Mohawk and Schoharie settlements. There Guy Johnson and other officers of the British Indian Department summoned a grand council of the Six Nations. They were invited to assemble "to eat the flesh and drink the blood of a Bostonian"-in other words, to feast on the occasion of a proposed treaty of alliance against the patriots, whom the savages denominated Bostonians, for the reason that Boston was the focus of the rebellion. There was a pretty full attendance at the council, but a large portion of the sachems adhered faithfully to their covenant of neutrality made with General Schuyler, until the appeals of the British commissioners to their avarice overcame their sense of honor. The commissioners represented the people of the king to be numerous as the forest leaves, and rich in every possession, while those of the colonies were exhibited as few and poor; that the armies of the king would soon subdue the rebels, and make them still weaker and poorer; that the rum of the king was as abundant as Lake Ontario; and that if the Indians would become his allies during the war, they should never want for goods or money. Tawdry articles, such as scarlet clothes, beads, and trinkets, were then displayed and presented to the Indians, which pleased them greatly, and they concluded an alliance by binding themselves to take up the hatchet against the patriots, and to continue their warfare until the latter were subdued. To each Indian were then presented a brass kettle, a suit of clothes, a gun, a tomahawk and scalping-knife, a piece of gold, a quantity of ammunition, and a promise of a bounty upon every scalp he should bring in. (2) Thayendanegea (Brant) was thenceforth the acknowledged grand sachem of the Six Nations, and soon afterward commenced his terrible career in the midst of our border settlements.(3)
We have thus glanced at the most important events that took place in the Mohawk Valley and adjacent districts prior to the attack of St. Leger upon Fort Stanwix, or Schuyler (as it will hereafter be called), which mark the progress of the Revolution there, before Brant and his more savage white associates brightened the tomahawk and musket, and bared the knife, in avowed alliance with the enemies of liberty. Volumes might be, and, indeed, have been, written in giving details of the stirring events in Tryon county during our Revolutionary struggle.(4) To these the reader is referred for local particulars, while we consider trans-actions there of more prominent and general interest.
1 Campbell's Annals of Tryon County.
2 See Life of Mary Jemison. This pamphlet was written in 1823, and published by James D. Bemis of Canandaigua, New York. She was taken a captive near Fort Duquesne (now Pittsburgh) when a child and was reared among the Indians. She married a chief, and became an Indian in every particular, except birth. At the council here spoken of she was present with her husband. Her death occurred at the age of 89. She says that the brass kettles mentioned in the text were in use among the Seneca Indians as late as 1823, when her narrative was printed.
3 Soon after Brant joined the Indians at Oghkwaga, he made a hostile movement against the settlement or Cherry Valley. He hovered around that hamlet for some days, but did not attack it. Of this a detailed account will be given hereafter.
4 The most voluminous are Campbell's Annals of Tryon County, Stone's Life of Brant and Simms' Schoharie County and Border Wars of New York.
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