The Pictorial Field-Book
of The Revolution
by Benson J. Lossing
Volume l, Chapter Twelve
ARK and threatening was the aspect of affairs for the people of the Mohawk Valley, in the spring of 1778, the year succeeding the dispersion of St. Leger's motley force at Fort Schuyler. Brant, with his warriors, retired to Fort Niagara after that event, and during the autumn and winter he and the British and Tory leaders made extensive preparations for war the ensuing spring. Colonel Hamilton was in command at Detroit, engaged actively in endeavors to induce the tribes along the southern shores of the western lakes and the head waters of the Mississippi to join the four divisions of the Six Nations of New York(1) who were in alliance with the crown against the patriots. He was aided by three malignant Tories, M'Kee, Elliot, and Simon Girty.(2) They had been confined' at Pittsburgh, but, escaping, they traversed the country thence to Detroit, and by proclaiming that the Americans had resolved on the destruction of the Indians, and that their only safety consisted in the immediate alliance of the Delawares and Shawnees with the soldiers of the king, aroused these tribes to a desire for war. Already they had been excited against the whites in general by the irruption into their county of Daniel Boon and others (of which I shall hereafter write), and they listened favorably to the appeal of the refugees. The expedition of M'Intosh into the Ohio Valley gave apparent confirmation to the assertions of the Tories, and Captain Pipe (the rival chief of White Eyes of the Delawares, a fast friend of the Americans) at once assembled his warriors, and urged them to follow him immediately upon the war-path. He proclaimed everyone an enemy who should speak against his proposition. But White Eyes, the beloved of all, persuaded his people to desist, and sent a message(3) to the Shawnees, which had the effect to keep them in check for a time. We shall consider the Indian wars in the Ohio country in detail in a future chapter.
The Johnsons and Colonel John Butler were also active at this juncture upon the St. Lawrence, recruiting Tory refugees, and inducing the Caughnawagas and other tribes to take up the hatchet; and at the dawn of the year a powerful combination was in progress, which threatened the destruction of all the settlements in the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys.
Two of the Six Nations, the Oneidas and the Tuscaroras, were still faithful to their pledge of neutrality, nor were the tribes of the other four yet generally in arms. Congress, therefore, resolved to make another effort to secure their neutrality, if not a defensive alliance.(4)
1 The Mohawks, Senecas, Onondagas, and Cayugas.
2 Girty was an unmitigated scoundrel, and was far more savage in his feelings than the Indians. He was present when Colonel Crawford was tortured by the Indians in 1782, and looked upon his agonies with demoniac pleasure. The same year he caused the expulsion of the peaceful Moravians, who were laboring usefully among the Wyandots; and he personally ill treated them when driven away. He instigated an Indian warrior, at the defeat of St. Clair in 1791, to tomahawk the American General Butler, who lay wounded on the field, and to scalp him, and take out his heart for distribution among the tribes. There were some Tories, even active ones, whom we can respect; but miscreants like Girty and Walter Butler, of the Mohawk Valley, present no redeeming quality to plead for excuse.
3 The message was as follows: "GRANDCHILDREN, YE SHAWNEES: Some days ago a flock of birds [M'Kee, Elliot, and Girty], that had come on from the east, lit at Gaschochking, imposing a song of theirs upon us, which song had nigh proved our ruin. Should these birds, which, on leaving us, took their flight toward Scioto, endeavor to impose a song on you likewise, do not listen to them, for they lie."
4 A resolution to this effect was adopted by Congress on the 2d of February, 1778. They instructed the commissioners to "Speak to the Indians in language becoming the representatives of free, sovereign, and dependent states, and in such a tone as to convince them that they felt themselves so."-Journals of Congress, iv., 63.
A council was called, and the chiefs of all the Six Nations were invited to attend. Gen.eral Schuyler and Volkert P. Douw were appointed commissioners to attend the meeting and act in behalf of Congress. They requested Governor Clinton to send a special commissioner to be present at the council, and James Duane was accordingly appointed. The council met at Johnstown on the 9th of March. More than seven hundred Indians were present, consisting of Tuscaroras, Oneidas, and Onondagas, a small number of Mohawks, (1778.) three Cayugas, but not one of the Senecas, the most powerful and warlike tribe of the confederacy. The latter not only refused to attend, but sent a message affecting great surprise that they were invited to such a counci1(1)' It is not certainly known that General Schuyler was present at the meeting. La Fayette accompanied Duane, and the latter seems to have conducted the proceedings on the part of Congress. They were opened by an address from that body, charging the Indians with perfidy, cruelty, and treachery, while the conduct of the United States had been true and magnanimous toward them. An old Onondaga hypocritically acknowledged and bewailed the sins of his tribe, but charged them upon the young and headstrong warriors who had been seduced by the Tory leaders. The Mohawks and Cayugas were sullen and silent, while an Oneida chief, conscious of the faithfulness of his own tribe and of the Tuscaroras, spoke eloquently in behalf of both, concluding with a solemn assurance that the United States might rely upon their abiding friendship. Those two tribes were applauded by the commissioners, while the others were dismissed with an admonition to look well to their ways, as the arm of the United States was powerful, and vengeance might penetrate the remotest settlements of the Senecas. The council, on the whole, was unsatisfactory, for it was evident that the most warlike and important tribes, with Brant at their head, still brooded over their loss at Oriskany, and were determined on revenge.
While La Fayette was at Johnstown, Colonel Samuel Campbell, of Cherry Valley, waited upon him and directed his attention to the exposed condition of that settlement and of those upon the Schoharie Creek. The people had built three slight fortifications the preceding year, but they were quite insufficient for sure protection. They were merely embankments of earth thrown up around strong stone houses, and stockaded, into which the women and children might flee for safety in the event of an invasion. They were respectively known as the Upper, Middle, and Lower Forts.(2) By direction of La Fayette, these were each manned by a company of soldiers, with a small brass field piece. He also directed a fort to be erected in the Oneida country, and Forts Schuyler and Dayton to be strengthened; and, as we have already noticed, Fort Plain was afterward enlarged and more strongly fortified. These and far more efficient preparations for defense were necessary; for the recovery of the Mohawk Valley, where their property was situated, was an object too important to the Johnsons, Butlers, and the large number of refugees who accompanied them to Canada, not to induce extraordinary efforts for its attainment. Their spies and scouts were out in every direction, and, at the very time of the council at Johnstown, Colonel Guy Carleton, a nephew of the Governor of Canada of the same name, was lurking in the neighborhood, to watch the actions and to report upon the dispositions of the chiefs in conclave. His employers at the same time were upon the frontiers, preparing for invasion.
1 "It is strange," said the messenger, "that
while your tomahawks are sticking in our heads [referring to the battle
of Oriskany], our wounds bleeding, and our eyes streaming with tears for
the loss of our friend, at German Flats [Oriskany], the commissioners should
think of inviting us to a treaty."-From a MS. Letter of James Duane,
cited by Stone.
2 These were situated in the Schoharie Valley. The Upper Fort was near the margin of Schoharie Creek, about five miles southeast of Middleburgh village, and within the limits of the present town of Fulton. The remains of the Middle Fort are still visible, near Middleburgh, on the plain east of the road leading to Schoharie. The Lower Fort was five miles north of Middleburgh, at the village of Schoharie. An old stone church (yet standing, but much altered from the original), one mile northward of the court-house, was within the intrenchments, and formed the citadel of the fort. The ramparts inclosed the two story stone house of John Becker, the kitchen part of which was, until recently, well preserved. Temporary dwellings were erected within the inclosure, and in these the inhabitants kept their most valuable things.-See Simms's Schoharie, &c., p. 269.
Early in the spring, Brant and his warriors, (1778.) with a large number of Tories, appeared at Oghkwaga, his headquarters the previous year. There he organized scalping parties and sent them out upon the borderers. The settlers were cut off in detail. Marauding parties fell upon isolated families like bolts from the clouds, and the blaze of dwellings upon thc hills and in the valleys nightly warned the yet secure inhabitant to be on the
alert. Their dwellings were transformed into block-houses. The women were taught the use of weapons, and stood sentinels when the men were at work. Half-grown children were educated for scouts, and taught to discern the Indian trail, and every- man worked armed in his field. Such was the condition of the dwellers of Tryon county during almost the whole time of the war.
Brant's first hostile movement of consequence, after his return to Oghkwaga, was the destruction of a small settlement at Springfield, at the head of Otsego lake, ten miles west of Cherry Valley. It was in the month of May. Every house was burned but one, into which the women and children were collected and kept unharmed. The absence of Tories in that expedition, and the freedom to act as he pleased on the part of Brant, may account for this humanity. Several men were made captive, and, with considerable property, were carried off to Oghkwaga.
In June, Captain M'Kean, at the head of some volunteers, was sent to reconnoiter Brant's encampment at Oghkwaga. M'Kean's headquarters were at Cherry Valley. On his way down the valley of the Charlotte River, he learned that large war-parties were out, and, fearing a surprise, thought it prudent to return. He halted an hour to refresh, and wrote a letter to Brant, censuring him for his predatory warfare; he intimating that he was too cowardly to show himself in open and honorable conflict, M'Kean challenged him to meet him in single combat, or with an equal number of men, to try their skill, courage, and strength; and concluded by telling him that if he would come to Cherry Valley, they would change him from a Brant to a goose.' This was an injudicious movement, and, doubtless, incited
1 This letter was fastened to a stick and placed in an Indian path. It soon reached Brant, and irritated
the sachem, in some degree, to join Butler, a few months later, in desolating that settlement.
There was an engagement on the 2d of July, on the upper branch of the Cobelskill, between a party of regular troops and Schoharie militia, fifty-two in number, and an Indian force four hundred and fifty strong. The Americans, commanded by Captain Christian Brown, were overpowered. Fourteen were killed, eight wounded, two were missing, and the remainder escaped. The dwellings were burned, and the horses and cattle, which the victors could not take with them, were slaughtered in the fields. At the same time, Colonel John Butler, who had penetrated the country from Niagara with a body of Indians and Tories, eleven hundred strong, broke into the Valley of Wyoming and laid it waste. (July 3-4, 1778.) Of this I shall write in detail hereafter. We have already considered the destruction of the settlement at German Flats, toward the close of this summer. Scalping parties continued to infest the Schoharie and neighboring settlements until quite late in September, when troops from the main army checked their depredation for a while. A few days after the battle of Monmouth, a Colonel William Butler, with a Pennsylvania regiment (June 28, 1778.) and a detachment of Morgan's rifle corps,(1) was ordered to Tryon county, and took post at Schoharie, whence parties were sent out to chastise the white and red savages, and to protect threatened settlements. They accomplished but little, however, except in intercepting bands of Tories that were making their way from the Hudson River settlements to join Johnson at Niagara. One of these parties, collected in the vicinity of Catskill, under a Captain Smith, was dispersed, the commander killed, and several of thc men made prisoners. This, and a few other exploits of a similar character, inspired the people with confidence, and they anticipated a season of repose. But it was of short duration, for already a cloud was gathering in the west, full charged with desolation.
We have noticed the fact that Walter Butler, a son of Colonel John Butler, was arrested near Fort Dayton in August, 1777, tried, and condemned to death as a spy, but reprieved and sent a prisoner to Albany. He was closely confined in the jail there until the spring of 1778, when, through the interposition of his father's friends, some of them of the highest respectability, he was liberated from prison, and allowed to reside with a private family, having a single sentinel to guard him. This family proved to be Tories in disguise. The sentinel was made drunk, and young Butler, mounting a fleet horse, escaped, and joined his father at Niagara, just after the massacre of Wyoming. On his way through the Seneca country he excited the Indians, by tales of the extensive preparations which the Americans were making to penetrate and lay waste their country, and they were soon ripe for invading the white settlements.
About this time a Seneca chief, called Great Tree, who was with Washington during the summer, left for his own country and nation, with the strongest professions of friendship for the Americans. He promised to use his influence in keeping the Senecas neutral, and, if unsuccessful, he was to return with his personal adherents and join the friendly Oneidas. According to his own account, he found his people in arms, and uttering loud defiance against the whites. The chiefs and principal warriors were collected at Kanadaseago and Genesee ; and Great Tree, believing the stories of Butler, and finding his people very united, resolved to join his nation in chastising any whites that might penetrate their county. He was a popular orator and warrior, and his adherence gave the Senecas much joy. The Indians west of the Oneidas were thus prepared to follow a leader upon the war-path.
Walter Butler obtained from his father the command of a detachment of his Rangers, and permission to employ them, with the forces of Captain Brant, in an expedition against the
him exceedingly. In a letter written soon afterward to a
Tory named Cass, he said, "The people of Cherry Valley, though bold
in words, will find themselves mistaken in calling me a goose."
1 Timothy Murphy, the man who shot General Fraser at Bemis's Heights, was in this detachment, and became the terror of the Indians and Tories in the Schoharie country. He used a double-barreled rifle, and the Indians, seeing him fire twice without stopping to load, supposed that he could fire as often as he pleased in the same manner.
settlements in Tryon county. It was late in the season, but he thirsted for revenge because of his imprisonment, and departed eastward early in October. While on his way, and near (1778). Genesee, he met Brant, with his warriors, going from his camp upon the Susquehanna to his winter-quarters at Niagara. Brant felt a deep personal hatred toward young Butler, and this feeling was greatly increased on finding himself made subordinate to the latter. But the difficulty, which threatened, at first, to be serious, was soon adjusted. Thayendanegea had thought much of the insulting letter of Captain M'Kean, and more willingly turned his face back toward the settlements. The united forces amounted to about seven hundred men.
This movement was known to Mr. Dean, an Indian interpreter in the Oneida country, early in October, and he communicated the information to Major Cochran, then in command at Fort Schuyler. That officer sent a messenger with the intelligence to Colonel Alden, at Cherry Valley, and also to the garrisons of the Schoharie forts; but the presence of the Pennsylvania troops and riflemen had lulled the people into fancied security, and the report of the oncoming invasion was treated as an idle Indian tale.
Cherry Valley, the wealthiest and most important settlement near the head waters of the eastern branch of the Susquehanna, was the enemy's chosen point of attack. Colonel Ichabod Alden, of Massachusetts, was in command of the fort there, with about two hundred and fifty Continental troops.(1) On the 8th of November the commandant received a dispatch from Fort Schuyler, informing him that his, post was about to be attacked by a large force of Indians and Tories, then assembled upon the Tioga River. Colonel Alden treated the information with unconcern, but the inhabitants were greatly alarmed. They asked permission to move into the fort or to deposit their most valuable articles there, but the colonel, regarding the alarm as really groundless, refused his consent. He assured them, at the same time, that he would be vigilant in keeping scouts upon the look-out and the garrison in preparation, and, accordingly, on the 9th parties were sent out in various directions. One of these, which went down toward the Susquehanna, built a fire at their encampment, fell asleep, and awoke prisoners in the hands of Butler and Brant. All necessary information concerning the settlement was extorted from them, and the next day the enemy moved forward and encamped upon a lofty hill covered with evergreens, about a mile southwest of the village, and overlooking the whole settlement. From that observatory they could see almost every house in the village; and from the prisoners they learned that the officers were quartered out of the fort, and that Colonel Alden and Lieutenant-colonel Stacia were at the house of Robert Wells, recently judge of the county, and formerly an intimate friend of Sir William Johnson and Colonel John Butler.
(November 10, 1778.) Early in the morning the enemy marched slowly toward the village. Snow had fallen during the night, and the morning was dark and misty. When near the village, the Tories halted to examine' their muskets, for the dampness had injured their powder. The Indians, and particularly the ferocious Senecas, eager for blood and plunder, pushed forward in the van during the halt. A settler, on horseback, going toward the village, was shot, but, being slightly wounded, escaped and gave the alarm. Colonel Alden could not yet "believe that the enemy was near in force, but he was soon convinced by the sound of the war-whoop that broke upon the settlement, and the girdle of fierce savages, with gleaming hatchets, that surrounded the house of Mr. Wells. They rushed in and murdered the whole family.(2) Colonel Alden escaped from a window, but was pursued, tomahawked, and scalped.
1 While Brant was collecting his troops at Oghkwaga the
previous year, the strong stone mansion of Colonel Samuel Campbell, at Cherry
Valley, was fortified, to be used as a place of retreat for the women and
children in the event of an attack. An embankment of earth and logs was
thrown up around it, and included two barns. Small block-houses were erected
within the inclosure. This was the only fort at Cherry Valley at the time
2 The family of Mr. Wells consisted of himself and wife, mother, brother and sister (John and Jane), and a daughter. His son John (the late eminent counselor of New York) was then at school in Schenectady, and was the only survivor of the family. They had all been living at Schenectady for some months, for security, but the alarm in the region of Cherry Valley having subsided, they bad just returned. The destruction
The house of the venerable minister, Mr. Dunlap (whose wife was the mother of Mrs. Wells), and that of a Mr. Mitchell, were next attacked, and most of the inmates murdered.(1) Mr. Dunlap and his daughter at home were protected by Little Aaron, a Mohawk, chief, who led him to his door and there stood by his side, and preserved his life and property. But the good old man sank under the terrible calamity of that day, and joined his lost ones in the spirit land within a year thereafter. Many other families of less note were cut off. Thirty-two of the inhabitants, mostly women and children, and sixteen soldiers of the garrison, were killed. The whole settlement was plundered after the massacre had ceased, and every building in the village was fired when the enemy left with their prisoners and booty. Among the prisoners were the wife and children of Colonel Campbell, who was absent at the time. He returned to find his property laid waste and his family carried into captivity.
The prisoners, numbering nearly forty, were marched down the valley that night in a storm of sleet, and were huddled together promiscuously, some of them half naked, with no shelter but the leafless trees, or resting-place but the wet ground. The marauders, finding the women and children cumbersome, sent them all back the next day, except Mrs. Campbell, her aged mother,(2) and her children, and a Mrs. Moore, who were kept as hostages for the kind treatment and ultimate exchange of the family of Colonel John Butler. The returning prisoners carried back with them a letter from Walter Butler to General Schuyler, in which he pretended that feelings of mercy for the almost naked and helpless captives were the incentive that caused him to release them; disclaimed all desire to injure the weak and defenseless; and closed by assuring him that, if Colonel John Butlers family were longer detained, he would not restrain the Indians from indulgence in murder and rapine. The "tender mercy" of Butler was that of "the wicked." He was the head and front of all the cruelty at Cherry Valley on that day. He commanded the expedition, and while he saw, unmoved, the murder of his father's friend and family, and of others whose age and sex should have secured his regard, his savage ally, the "monster Brant," hastened to save that very family, but was too late.(3) Butler would not allow his Rangers even to warn their friends
of the Wells family was marked by circumstances of peculiar
ferocity, and I mention them to exhibit the infernal character which the
passions of men assume when influenced by the horrid teachings in the school
of war. One of the Tories boasted that he cleft open the head of Mr. Wells
while on his knees in prayer. His sister Jane was distinguished for her
beauty, virtues, and accomplishments. When the enemy burst into the house,
she fled to a pile of wood and endeavored to conceal herself. An Indian
pursued and caught her. He then wiped his knife, dripping with the blood
of her relatives, sheathed it, and deliberately took his tomahawk from his
girdle. At that moment a Tory, who had been a domestic in the family of
Mr. Wells, relented, and, springing forward, claimed her as his sister.
The savage thrust him aside and buried his hatchet in her temple. It is
said that Colonel John Butler, professedly grieved at the conduct of his
son at Cherry Valley, remarked, on one occasion, "I would have gone
miles on my knees to save that family, and why my son did not do it, God
1 Mr. Mitchell was in the field when the invasion took place, and found safety in the woods. After thc enemy had retired, he hastened to the village, when he found his house on fire and the dead bodies of his wife and three children lying within. He extinguished the flames, and discovered his little daughter terribly mangled, but yet alive. He took her to the door, hoping fresh air might revive her, when he discovered a straggling party of the enemy near. He had just time to conceal himself, when a Tory sergeant named Newberry, whose acts in Schoharie entitle him to a seat in the councils of Pandemonium, approached, and, seeing the poor child lying. upon the door-stone, dispatched her with a blow of a hatchet. This miscreant was afterward caught .and hung by order of General Clinton.
2 Mrs. Cannon, the mother of Mrs. Campbell, was quite old. She was an encumbrance, and a savage slew her with his tomahawk, by the side of her daughter, who, with a babe eighteen months old in her arms, was driven with inhuman haste before her captors, while, with uplifted hatchets, they menaced her life. Arriving among the Senecas, she was kindly treated, and installed a member of one of the families. They allowed her to do as she pleased, and her deportment was such that she seemed to engage the real affections of the people. Perceiving that she wore caps, one was presented to her, considerably spotted with blood. On examination, she recognized it as one that had belonged to her friend, Jane Wells, She and her children (from whom she was separated in the Indian country) were afterward exchanged for the wife and family of Colonel John Butler, then in the custody of the Committee of Safety at Albany.
3 There are many well-authenticated instances on record of the humanity of Brant, exercised particularly toward women and children. He was a magnanimous victor, and never took the life of a former friend or acquaintance. He loved a hero because of his heroism, although he might be his enemy; and he was
in the settlement of the approaching danger, but friend and foe were left exposed to the terrible storm;he had sworn vengeance, and his bad heart would not be content until its cravings were satisfied. Tender charity may seek to cloak his crimes with the plea that partisan warfare justified his deeds; and lapse of time, which mellows such crimson tints in the picture of a man's character, may temper the asperity with which shocked humanity views his conduct; yet a just judgment, founded upon observation of his brief career, must pronounce it a stain upon the generation in which he lived. After the destruction of Cherry Valley his course was short, but bold, cruel, and bloody. British officers of respectability viewed him with horror and disgust; and when, in 1781, he was slain by the Oneidas on the banks of the West Canada Creek, his body was left to decay, while his fallen companions were buried with respect.
With the destruction of Cherry Valley all hostile movements ceased in Tryon county, and were not resumed until the following spring, when an expedition was sent against the Onondagas by General Clinton. Frequent messages had been sent by the Oneidas during the winter, all reporting that Brant and his Tory colleagues were preparing for some decisive blow. The Onondagas, in the mean while, were making peaceful professions, expressing a desire to remain neutral, while they were in league and in secret correspondence with the leaders in the hostile camp at Niagara. Policy, and even the necessity born of the law of self-preservation, seemed to demand the infliction of summary and severe chastisement upon the savages who menaced and desolated the Tryon county settlements. Early in the winter General Schuyler had assured Congress that, unless something of the kind was speedily done, Schenectady must soon become the boundary of settlement in that direction.
The arrangement of an expedition against the Indians was intrusted to General Clinton. (Apri1 18,1779.) In April he dispatched a portion of the regiments of Colonels Gansevoort and Van Schaick, under the latter officer, against the Onondagas. The party consisted of five hundred and fifty-eight strong men. Van Schaick was instructed to burn their castle and villages in the Onondaga Valley, destroy all their cattle and other effects, and make as many prisoners as possible. He was further instructed to treat the women that might fall into his hands with all the respect due to chastity. The expedition went down Wood Creek and Oneida Lake, and thence up the Oswego River to the point on Onondaga Lake where Salina now is. A thick fog concealed their movements, and they had approached to within four or five miles of the valley before they were discovered. As soon as the first village was attacked, the alarm spread to the others. The people fled to the forests, leaving every thing, even their arms, behind them. Three villages, consisting of about fifty houses, were destroyed; twelve Indians were killed, and thirty-three were made prisoners. A large quantity of
never known to take advantage of a conquered soldier. I
have mentioned the challenge which Captain M'Kean sent to Brant. After the
affair at Cherry Valley, he inquired of one of the prisoners for Captain
M'Kean, who, with his family, had left the settlement. "He sent me
a challenge," said Brant. "I came to accept it. He is a fine soldier
thus to retreat." It was replied, "Captain M'Kean would not turn
his back upon an enemy when there was any probability of success."
"I know it," replied Brant. "He is a brave man, and I would
have given more to take him than any other man in Cherry Valley; but I would
not have hurt a hair of his head."
Dr. Timothy Dwight relates that Walter Butler ordered a woman and child to be slain, in bed, at Cherry Valley, when Brant interposed, saying, "What! kill a woman and child! That child is not an enemy to the king nor a friend to Congress. Long before he will be big enough to do any mischief, the dispute will be settled." When, in 1780, Sir John Johnson and Brant led a desolating army through the Schoharie and Mohawk Valleys, Brant's humanity was again displayed. On their way to Fort Hunter an infant was carried off. The frantic mother followed them as far as the fort, but could get no tidings of her child. On the morning after the departure of the invaders, and while General V an Rensselaer's officers were at breakfast, a young Indian came bounding into the room, bearing the infant in his arms and a letter from Captain Brant, addressed to "the commander of the rebel army." The letter was as follows: "Sir-I send you, by one of my runners, the child which he will deliver, that you may know that, whatever others may do. I do not make war upon women and children. I a1m sorry to say that I have those engaged with me who are more savage than the savages themselves." He named the Butlers and others of the Tory leaders This incident was related to Mr. Stone by the late General Morgan Lewis.
provisions, consisting chiefly of beans and corn, was consumed. The council-house, or castle, was not burned, but the swivel in it was spiked. All the horses and cattle in the vicinity were slaughtered; and, when the work of destruction was ended, the expedition returned to Fort Schuyler, after an absence of only six days, and without the loss of a man.
This expedition, cruel and of doubtful policy, alarmed the neutral Oneidas.(1) They were faithful to the Americans, yet, having intermarried freely with the Onondagas, their relations had been slain or impoverished, and this distressed them. They sent a deputation to Fort Schuyler to inquire into the matter. Colonel Van Schaick pacified, if he did not satisfy, them. and they returned to their people. But the ire of the Onondagas was fiercely kindled, not only on account of the destruction of their property, but because of the extinguishment of their council fire. Three hundred braves were immediately sent upon the war-path, charged with the vengeance of the nation. Guided by a Tory, they came down fiercely upon the settlement at Cobelskill(2), murdering, plundering, and burning. The militia turned out to repulse them, but, being led into an ambuscade, a number of them were killed. They fought desperately, and while the militia was thus contending, and beating back the savages, the people fled in safety to Schoharie. Seven of the militia took post in a strong house, which the savages set fire to, and these brave young men all perished in the flames. The whole settlement was then plundered and burned. The patriots lost twenty-two killed, and forty two who were made prisoners.
While this expedition was in progress, scalping parties appeared at the different points in the lower section of the Mohawk, and the settlements were menaced with the fate of Cherry Valley. On the south side of the Mohawk a party fell upon the Canajoharie settlement, took three prisoners, captured some horses, and drove the people to Fort Plain. On the same day another party attacked a small settlement at Stone Arabia,(3) burned some (April 18, 1779.), houses, and killed several people. A party of Senecas appeared at Schoharie on the same day, drove the people to the fort, plundered the houses, and carried away two men prisoners. These simultaneous attacks were part of a plan for cutting off the settlement in detail. The Indians on the south of the Mohawk were from the Seneca country, and those on the north from Canada, both, doubtless, the advanced parties of larger forces. The settlements were thoroughly alarmed. The Palatine(4) Committee wrote immediately to General Clinton, at Albany, for succor. That efficient officer afforded immediate aid, and, by the timely check thus given to the invaders, the settlers of the valley were prevented from being driven into Schenectady(5) Other settlements near the Delaware and on the frontiers of Ulster county were visited by the Indians in May and the early part of June; and in July the battle of Minisink occurred, the particulars of which will be hereafter related. (July 20, 1779.)
In the spring of this year it was determined to send a formidable force into the Indian country of Western New York, for the purpose of chastising the savages and their Tory allies so thoroughly that the settlements upon the Mohawk and the upper branches of the Susquehanna might enjoy a season of repose. The tribes of the Six Nations were then populous. They had many villages, vast corn-fields, and fruitful orchards and gardens in the
1 At the time of this expedition there were about forty
Oneida warriors at Fort Schuyler. These were sent, with a party of regulars,
under Lieutenants M'Lellan and Hardenburgh, northward to attack the fort
at Oswegatchie. This expedition was unsuccessful in its ostensible object,
the garrison having been apprised of their approach. It is supposed that
the employment of the Oneidas so far away that they could not notify their
kinsmen, the Onondagas, of the invasion, was the principal object of this
northern movement, and in that it was successful. The Oneidas were really
friendly to the patriots, but to their credit it was said by General Clinton
(who knew them well), in a letter to General Sullivan, "Their attachment
to one another is too strong to admit of their being of any service when
employed against their fellows."
2 Cobelskill was taken from Schoharie. The little village is about ten miles west of the former.
3 Stone Arabia is about three miles north of the Mohawk, in the rear of Palatine, and thirteen west of Johnstown.
4 Palatine is on the north side of the Mohawk, opposite Canajoharie, with which it is connected by a bridge.
5, Campbell's Annals; Stone's Brant.
It was supposed that the most effectual method to subdue or weaken them would be to destroy their homes and lay waste their fields, and thus drive them further back into the wilderness toward Lake Erie. Already the Mohawks had been thrust out of the valley of their name, and their families were upon the domains of the Cayugas and Senecas. It was, therefore, determined to make a combined movement upon them of two strong divisions of military, one from Pennsylvania and the other from the north, at a season when their fields and orchards were fully laden with grain and fruits. It was a part of the plan of the expedition to penetrate the country to Niagara, and break up the nest of vipers there.
General Sullivan(1) was placed in the chief command, and led in person the division that ascended the Susquehanna from Wyoming, while General Clinton(2) commanded the forces that penetrated the country from the mouth of the Canajoharie. It was arranged to unite the two divisions at Tioga.
Clinton's troops, fifteen hundred strong, were mustered at Canajoharie on the 15th of June, and on the 17th he commenced the transportation of his bateaux and provisions across the hilly country to Springfield, at the head of Otsego Lake, a distance of more than twenty
1 John Sullivan was born in Berwick, Maine, on the 17th
of February, 1740. His family emigrated to America from Ireland in 1723.
He was a farmer in his youth, and, after arriving at maturity, be studied
law, and established himself in practice in Durham, New Hampshire. He was
chosen a delegate to the first Continental Congress. After retiring from
that body, he and John Langdon, the speaker of the Provincial Congress of
New Hampshire, commanded a small force which seized Fort William and Mary,
at Portsmouth, and carried off all the cannon. He was appointed one of the
eight brigadiers when the Continental army was organized in 1775, and early
in the following year he was made a major general. He superseded Arnold
in the command' of the American army in Canada in 1776. When General Greene
became in on Long Island, he took command of his division, and was made
prisoner at the battle fought there in August, 1776. He was exchanged, and
took command of General Charles Lee's division in New Jersey after the capture
of that officer. In the autumn of 1777 he was engaged in the battles at
the Brandywine and Germantown, and in the winter following he took command
of the troops on Rhode Island. He besieged Newport in August, 1778, was
unsuccessful, and retreated from the island after a severe battle near the
north end. He commanded the expedition against the Indians in 1779, and
this was the last of his military career. Having offended some of the members
of the Board of War, and believing himself ill treated, he resigned his
commission in 1779. He was afterward a member of Congress, and, for three
years from 1786, was President of New Hampshire. In 1789 be was appointed
district judge, which office he held until his death, which occurred January
2 James Clinton was born in Ulster county, New York, August 9th, 1736. At the age of twenty (1756) he was captain, under Bradstreet, in the attack on Fort Frontenac. In 1763 he was intrusted with the command of four companies in Ulster and Orange, raised for defense against the inroads of the savages. He, with his brother George (the Governor of New York during the Revolution), early espoused the patriot cause. He was appointed a colonel in 1775, and accompanied Montgomery to Canada. In August, 1776, he was made a brigadier; and he was in command, under Governor Clinton, at Forts Montgomery and Clinton when they fell into the hands of the enemy in 1777. He escaped, and made his way to his residence in safety. Conjointly with Sullivan, he led the expedition against the Indians in 1779. During the remainder of the war he was connected with the Northern Department, having his quarters at Albany. He retired to his estate, near Newburgh, Orange county, New York, after the Revolution, where he died
miles. It was an arduous duty, for his boats numbered two hundred' and twenty, and he had provisions sufficient for three months. He reached Springfield, with all his luggage, on the 30th. On his way he captured Hare and Newberry, two notorious spies, the former a lieutenant in the British service, and the latter the miscreant whom we have already noticed as the murderer of Mr. Mitchell's wounded child at Cherry Valley. They were tried, and hanged "pursuant to the sentence of the court, and to the entire satisfaction of the inhabit. ants of the county."(1)
Clinton, with his division, proceeded to the foot of Otsego Lake, and there awaited ( July 1, 1779.) orders from Sullivan. A day or two after his arrival, General Schuyler communicated to him the important information that the purpose of the expedition was known to the enemy, and that four hundred and fifty regular troops, one hundred Tories, and thirty Indians had been sent from Montreal to re-enforce the tribes against whom it was destined. This information General Schuyler received from a spy whom he had sent into Canada. The spy had also informed him that they were to be joined by one half of Sir John Johnson's regiment and a portion of the garrison at Niagara. On the 5th, Mr. Deane,(2) the Indian interpreter, arrived with thirty-five Oneida warriors, who came to explain the absence of their tribe, whom Clinton, by direction of Sullivan, had solicited to join him.(3) They confirmed the intelligence sent by Schuyler, and added that a party of Cayugas and Tories, three hundred in number, were then upon the war-path, and intended to hang upon the outskirts of Clinton's army on its march to Tioga.
Clinton remained at the south end of Otsego Lake, awaiting the tardy movements of Sullivan, until the first week in August. His troops became impatient, yet he was not idle. He performed a feat which exhibited much ingenuity and forecast. He discovered that, in consequence of a long drought, the outlet of the lake was too inconsiderable to allow his boats to pass down upon its waters. He therefore raised a dam across it at the foot of the lake, by which the waters would be so accumulated that, when it should be removed, the bed of the outlet would be filled to the brim, and bear his boats upon the flood. The work was soon accomplished, and, in addition to the advantages which it promised to the expedition, the damming of the lake caused great destruction of grain upon its borders, for its banks were overflowed, and vast corn-fields belonging to the Indians were deluged and destroyed. The event also greatly alarmed the savages. It was a very dry season, and they regarded the sudden rising of the lake, without any apparent cause, as an evidence that the Great Spirit was displeased with them. And when Clinton moved down the stream with his large flotilla upon its swollen flood, the Indians along its banks were amazed, and retreated into the depths of the forest.
Sullivan and Clinton formed a junction at Tioga on the 22d of August, the entire force amounting to five thousand men, consisting of the brigades of Generals Clinton, (1779.)
December 22d, 1812, aged 75 years. He was the father of
De Witt Clinton, the eminent Governor of New York in 1826-7.
1 So said General Clinton in a letter to General Schuyler. The latter remarked, in reply, "In executing Hare you have rid the state of the greatest villain in it. I hope his abettors in the country will meet with a similar exaltation."
2 James Deane was the first settler in the town of Westmoreland, Oneida county. He was the son of pious New England parents, and at the age of eleven years was sent among the Indians upon the Susquehanna to learn their language, for the purpose of becoming a missionary among them. He was afterward a student in Dartmouth College. On the breaking out of the war, he was appointed Indian agent, with the rank of major in the army, and during the contest he was most of the time among the Oneidas. At the close of hostilities the Oneidas granted him a tract of land two miles square, near Rome, in Oneida county, which he afterward exchanged for a tract in Westmoreland, where he removed in 1786, and resided until his death in 1832.
3 General Clinton was averse to the employment of the Oneidas or any other Indians ; but such being the orders of his superior, he engaged Mr. Deane to negotiate with them. The Oneidas, to a man, volunteered to accompany the expedition, and the few Onondagas who still adhered to the Americans were also I ready to join Clinton. But on the 23d the Oneidas received an address at Fort Schuyler, from General Haldimand, written in the Iroquois language; and so alarming were the menaces it contained, that they suddenly changed their minds, and determined to stay at home and defend their own castles and dwellings.
Hand, Maxwell, and Poor, together with Proctor's artillery and a corps of riflemen. The movement of the expedition had been so slow that the enemy was prepared to receive them. Near Conewawah(1) (Newtown in the histories of the battle), a considerable Indian village at the junction of the Newtown Creek with the Chemung River, they had thrown up breastworks half a mile in length, where they had determined to make a bold stand against the invaders.
The Americans moved cautiously up the Tioga and Chemung, having large flanking parties on either side, and a strong advanced and rear guard, for they were told that detachments of the enemy were hovering around, ready to strike when an opportunity should offer. On their march they destroyed a small Indian settlement, (August 29, 1779.) and the next day Major Parr, of the advanced guard, discovered the enemy's works. These were about a mile in advance of Conewawah, and were so covered by a bend in the river, that only the front and one flank were exposed to the fire of the assailants. That flank rested upon a steep hill or ridge running nearly parallel with the river. Further to the left was another ridge, running in the same direction, and passing in the rear of the American army. Detachments of the enemy were stationed on both hills, having a line of communication; and they were so disposed that they might fall upon the assailants, flank and rear, as soon as the action should commence. The Tories and Indians were further protected by the pine-trees and shrub oaks that covered the ground. Hoping that the Americans might not discover their concealed fortification, they had arranged it in such a relative position to the road along which the invaders must pass, that the whole flank of the army would be exposed to an enfilading fire. Happily for the Americans, their preparations were discovered in time.
General Hand(3) formed the light infantry about four hundred yards from the breast-works, and, while thus waiting for the main body to come up, was several times attacked by small parties of Indians, who sallied out, raised the war-whoop, and then , retreated within the works. The hill upon the right swarmed with savages, and Sullivan ordered Poor to sweep it with his brigade. He immediately commenced the ascent, and the action became warm. His progress was bravely disputed for two hours, when the enemy slowly gave way. They darted from tree to tree as they yielded inch by inch; and from behind rocks, and bushes, and trees they galled the Americans terribly with a scattering fire. Brant was at the head of the savages, and Sir John Johnson, aided by the Butlers and Captain M'Donald, one of
1 Conewawah was upon the site of the present village of
Elmira. The name is an Iroquois word, signifying a head on a pole. It was
beautifully situated in the midst of a fertile valley, and, at the time
of the invasion, was surrounded by fruitful orchards and broad fields of
flowering corn. The place became a white settlement, and was incorporated
by the name of Newtown in 1815, which was changed to Elmira in 1825. There
are no vestiges to be seen here of the battle of Chemung, as the engagement
that took place there is sometimes called. The spot where Sullivan landed
is a few rods below the "Sullivan Mill," which stands upon the
Conewawah or Newtown Creek, near its junction with the Chemung. The works
thrown up by Sullivan, and destroyed when he returned from the Genesee country,
were a little south of the mill.
2 EXPLANATION OF THE PLAN.-The advanced guard, composed of light infantry, one mile in advance. a a, flanking corps. b b, the main body. Clinton's and Hand's brigades were on the right, and Poor's and Maxwell's were on the left. c, Proctor's artillery and the pack horses. The rifle corps composed a portion of the strong rear-guard.
3 General Edward Hand was a native of Leinster province, Ireland, and was born at the close of 1744. His amiable disposition and urbanity of manner endeared him to his men, and he maintained, throughout the war, the unlimited confidence and respect of his superior officers. After the war he was much engaged in civil offices of trust, and his name is attached to the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1790. So highly did Washington esteem him, that when, during Adams's administration, he consented to take the chief command of the American army to be raised to resist the threatened and actual aggressions of France, he desired the appointment of General Hand as adjutant general. He died in 1803.
the Scotch refugees from Johnstown, commanded the Tories. It is believed that Guy Johnson was also in the battle, but this is not certainly known. They fought skillfully and courageously, and, but for the artillery that was brought into playas speedily as possible, the victory would doubtless have been on their side. The cannonade produced a great panic among the Indians, yet their leader, who was seen at all points, and in the hottest of the fight, kept them long from retreating. Poor at length gained the summit of the ridge, outflanked the enemy, and decided the fortunes of the day. Brant, perceiving that all was lost, raised the loud, retreating cry, Oonah.' Oonah! and savages and Tories, in great confusion, abandoned their works and fled across the river, pursued by the victors. Thus ended the battle of Chemung. The force of the enemy was estimated by Sullivan at fifteen hundred, including five companies of British troops and Rangers. The Americans numbered between four and five thousand, a considerable portion of whom were not brought into action at all. Considering the length of time occupied in the battle, and the numbers engaged, the loss was very inconsiderable. Only five or six of the Americans were killed, and about fifty wounded. The loss of the enemy was much greater. In their flight eight Indians were slain and scalped by their pursuers. Ay, scalped! for the Americans had been apt scholars in learning the Indian art of war that had been so terribly taught them in Tryon county for three years.
Sullivan's army rested upon the battle-ground that night, and the next morning pushed onward toward Catharinestown, an Indian settlement northwest from Conewawah, and about three miles from the head of Seneca Lake. The march was difficult and dangerous. The route lay through narrow defiles and a deep valley traversed by a stream so sinuous that they had to ford it several times, the water often waist high. At night they bivouacked in a dark and tangled cedar swamp, without blankets or food, and in (August 3l.) continual fear of an enemy in ambush.(1) The whole army reached Catharinestown in safety, and encamped before it on the 2d of September. The people fled, and the next day the village and surrounding corn-fields and orchards were destroyed.
The flying campaign, charged with destruction, had now fairly begun. " The Indians shall see," said Sullivan, "that there is malice enough in our hearts to destroy every thing that contributes to their support," and cruelly was that menace executed. The Indians lied before him like frightened deer to cover, and the wail of desolation was heard through. out their pleasant land, from the Susquehanna to the Genesee. Village after village was laid waste, and fields and orchards were desolated. Kendaia was swept from (September 6, 1779.) existence; other and smaller villages were annihilated; and on the 7th of September the conquerors sat down before Kanadaseagea, the capital of the Senecas, near the head of the beautiful lake of that name. Sixty indifferent cabins, surrounded by fine orchards of apple, peach, and pear trees, became a prey to the army. Not a roof was left to shelter the sorrowing inhabitants on their return-not a fruit-tree to shade them or to give them sustenance-not an ear of corn of all the abundance that lay before the invaders when they approached, was saved from the devouring flames.
While the chief portion of the army was engaged in this work, detachments went out and wrought equal devastation elsewhere. Four hundred men went down the west side of the lake and destroyed Gotheseunquean, or Gaghsiungua, and the plantations around it, and an. other party, under Colonel Harper, marched to Schoyere, near Cayuga Lake, and utterly destroyed it and its fields of grain.
Taking breath at Kanadaseagea, the invaders marched on to Kanandaigua, at the head of the little lake of that name, and in a few hours after their arrival the" twenty-three very elegant houses, mostly framed, and, in general, large,"(2) with the extensive fields (September 10.) of corn and beans, and orchards of heavily-laden fruit-trees, were destroyed.
1 The enemy might have rallied upon the hills along this
perilous route, and greatly thinned, if not quite destroyed or captured,
the invading army. But, as Brant afterward said, they did not believe that
Sullivan would commence a march so soon over so bad a route; and the Indians
were so terrified by the cannons, and disheartened by the result of the
battle, that they could not be readily induced to attempt another.
2 See General Sullivan's official account of this expedition.
Honeoye, or Anyeaya, a village lying in the path of the invading army in its march toward the Valley of the Genesee, was next swept away, and Sullivan prepared to desolate the broad valley in whose bosom nestled the great capital of the Western tribes, and the most important of all the Indian settlements.
Thus far the enemy had fled in terror before the invading army, and the villages of the Indians were destroyed without an effort being made to defend them. The beautiful Valley of the Genesee, the earthly paradise of the Six Nations, was now menaced. A council of the villages of the plain was held, and they resolved to turn and strike another blow in defense of their homes. Their women and children were removed to the deep shelter of the forest, and the warriors prepared for battle upon a plain between Honeyoe and the head of Connissius Lake, now known as Henderson's Flats. There they waited in ambush the approach of Sullivan's army, and rose upon the advanced guard with the desperation of wounded panthers. The battle was short, the savages were routed, and all that they had gained was the capture of two Oneida chiefs.(1)
On the 12th, Kanaghsaws and its plantations were laid in ashes. Here the progress of the army was temporarily checked by a deep stream, which it was necessary to bridge in order to pass over with the baggage and stores. Before them lay the village of Little Beard's Town, and, while the army was delayed in constructing a bridge, Lieutenant Boyd, of the rifle corps, with a detachment of twenty-six men, went to reconnoiter the town. He found it deserted, except by two Indians, whom he killed and scalped. Returning, his route lay near the party who had captured the two Oneidas. One of them, as we have seen, was killed, the other was spared for torture. He broke loose from his captors, and fled in the direction of Sullivan's camp. Many Indians started in pursuit, and these were joined by Brant and a large body of warriors, who had lain in ambush to cut off Boyd on his return. (September 13,1779.) The pursuing Indians came upon Boyd and his party. Surrounded by overwhelming numbers, he saw no way to escape but by cutting his way through the fierce circle. Three times he made the attempt; almost all his men were killed, and himself and a soldier named Parker were made prisoners and carried in triumph to Little Beard's Town.(2) Brant .treated them humanely, but, having business elsewhere, the chief left them in the custody of Colonel John Butler, who, with his Rangers, was there. The unfeeling Tory handed them over to the tender mercies of the Indians. By them Boyd was tortured in the most cruel manner, and then beheaded. Parker was beheaded without being tortured. Among the few who escaped was Timothy Murphy, the slayer of Fraser at Bemis's Heights. The Americans found the bodies of the two victims at Little Beard's Town, and buried them upon the bank of Little Beard's Creek, under a clump of wild plum-trees on the road now running from Moscow to Genesee.
The Tories and Indians now held another council, and it was concluded that further attempts to oppose such an army as Sullivan's was futile. They therefore resolved to leave their beautiful country; and their women and children were hurried off toward Niagara,
1 One of these was General Sullivan's
guide, and had rendered the Americans very important services. He had an
elder brother engaged with the enemy, and here they met for the first time
since their separation at the Oneida Castle. Fierce was the anger of the
elder chief when he recognized his brother in the prisoner. Approaching
him with violent gestures, he said, "Brother! you have merited death!
The hatchet or the war-club shall finish your career!" He then reproached
him for aiding the rebellion, for driving t.he Indians from their fields,
and for butchering their children. " No crime can be greater,"
he said. " But though you have merited death, and shall die on this
spot, my hands shall not be stained with the blood of a brother! Who will
strike?" Instantly a hatchet gleamed in the hand of Little Beard, the
sachem of a village near by,* and the next moment the young Oneida was dead
at the feet of his brother. -See Campbell's Annals.
2 Han Yerry, an Oneida sachem, was with Lieutenant Boyd, serving him as guide. He fought with signal courage. The Indians knew him, and, several springing upon him, he was literally hacked in pieces by their hatchets. Han Yerry lived at Oriskany at the time of the battle there, and joined the Americans. He was a powerful man, and did great execution. For this the Indians defeated in that battle entertained. toward him feelings of the most implacable hatred.
* Little Beard's Town, now Leicester, in Livingston county.
while the warriors hovered around the conquering army, to watch its movements and strike a blow if opportunity should occur.
Sullivan proceeded to the Genesee Valley. Gathtsegwarohare and Little Beard's Town were destroyed, and on the 14th he crossed the river, and the army encamped around Genesee, the Indian capital. Here every thing indicated the presence of (September, 1779.) civilization. There was not a wilderness feature in the scene. The rich intervales presented the appearance of cultivation for many generations, (1) and the farms, and orchards, and gardens bespoke a degree of comfort and refinement that would be creditable to any civilized community. But a terrible doom hung over the smiling country. The Genesee Castle was destroyed, and the capital was laid in ashes. " The town" [Genesee], said Sullivan, in his dispatch to Washington, "contained one hundred and twenty-eight houses, mostly large and very elegant. It was beautifully situated, almost encircled with a clear flat, extending a number of miles, over which extensive fields of corn were waving, together with every kind of vegetable that could be conceived." Yet the contemplation of this scene could not stay the destroyer's hand; and over the whole valley and the surrounding country the troops swept with the besom of desolation. Forty Indian towns were burned; one hundred and sixty thousand bushels of corn in the fields and in granaries were destroyed; a vast number of the finest fruit-trees, (3) the product of years of tardy growth, were cut down; hundreds of gardens covered with edible vegetables were desolated; the inhabitants were driven into the forests to starve, and were hunted like wild beasts; their altars were overturned, and their graves trampled upon by strangers; and a beautiful, well-watered country, teeming with a prosperous people, and just rising from a wilderness state, by the aid of cultivation, to a level with the productive regions of civilization, was desolated and cast back a century within the space of a fortnight.(3) To us, looking upon the scene from a point so remote, it is difficult to perceive the necessity that called for a chastisement so cruel and terrible. But that such necessity seemed to exist we should not doubt, for it was the judicious and benevolent mind of Washington that conceived and planned the campaign, and ordered its rigid execution in the manner in which it was accomplished. It awed the Indians for the moment, but did not crush them. In the reaction they had greater strength. It kindled the fires of deep hatred, which spread far among the tribes upon the lakes and in the valley of the Ohio. Washington, like Demetrius, the son of Antigonus, received from the savages the name of An-na-ta-kau-les, which signifies a taker of towns, or TOWN DESTROYER.(4)
1 The race of Indians that then inhabited the Valley of
the Genesee had no knowledge of the earlier cultivators of the soil. They
asserted, according to Mary Jemison, that another race, of which they had
no knowledge, had cultivated the land long before their ancestors came into
the valley; and she saw the disentombment of skeletons much larger than
those of the race she was among.
2 Many of the orchards were uncommonly large. One that was destroyed by the axe contained fifteen hundred trees.
3 Stone says (Life of Brant, ii., 25), "It is apprehended that few of the present generation are thoroughly aware of the advances which the Indians, in the wide and beautiful country of the Cayugas and Senecas, had made in the march of civilization. They had several towns and many large villages, laid out with a considerable degree of regularity. They had framed houses, some of them well finished, having chimneys, and painted. They had broad and productive fields; and, in addition to an abundance of apples, were the enjoyment of the pear and the more luscious peach."
4 At a council held in Philadelphia in 1792, Corn Planter, the distinguished Seneca chief, thus addressed the President; " FATHER-The voice of the Seneca nation speaks to you, the great counselor, in whose heart the wise men of all the thirteen fires have placed their wisdom. It may be very small in your ears, and, therefore, we entreat you to hearken with attention, for we are about to speak to you of things which to us are very great. When your army entered the country of the Six Nations, we called you The Town Destroyer; and to this day, when that name is heard, our women look behind them and turn pale, and our children cling dose to the necks of their mothers. Our counselors and warriors are men, and can not be afraid; but their hearts are grieved with the fears of our women and children, and desire that it may be buried so deep that it may be heard no more."
Corn Planter was one of the earliest lecturers upon temperance in this country. While speaking upon this subject in 1822, he said, "The Great Spirit first made the world, next the flying animals, and formed all things good and prosperous. He is immortal and everlasting. After finishing thc flying animals, he came down to earth and there stood. Then he made different kinds of trees, and woods of all sorts, and
From causes not clearly understood, Sullivan did not extend his victorious march to Niagara, the head-quarters of the Tories and Indians, the breaking up of which would have been far more efficient in bringing repose to the white settlements than the achievements just accomplished; but, having desolated the Genesee Valley, he crossed the river and retraced his steps. When the army recrossed the outlet of Seneca Lake, Colonel (September 20, 1779.) Zebulon Butler, of Wyoming, was sent with a detachment of five hundred men, to pass round the foot of Cayuga Lake and destroy the Indian towns on its eastern shore. Lieutenant Dearborn was dispatched upon similar service along its western shore; and both corps, having accomplished their mission, joined the main body on the Chemung.(1) (September 28.) Butler had burned three towns and the capital of the Cayugas, and Dearborn had destroyed six towns and a great quantity of grain and fruit-trees. The army reached Tioga, its starting-place, on the 3d of October, where it was joined by the garrison left in charge of Fort Sullivan. Destroying that stockade, they took up their line of march on the 4th for Wyoming, where they arrived on the 7th, and pitched their tents on the former campground near Wilkesbarre. The next day a large portion of the troops left. for Easton, on the Delaware, at which place they were dismissed. Thus ended a campaign before which we would gladly draw the vail of forgetfulness.
Although beaten back into the wilderness, and their beautiful country laid waste, the Indians were not conquered, and in the spring of the following year Brant and some of (1780.) his followers were again upon the war-path. During the winter the threat of Sir Frederic Haldimand against the Oneidas was executed. Their castle, church, and villages were destroyed, and the inhabitants were driven down upon the white settlements for protection. They collected together near Schenectady, where they remained until after thc war.(2) These, too, were particular objects for the vengeance of the hostile savages. They regarded the Oneidas as double traitors, and determined to punish them accordingly, should an opportunity offer to do so.
In April, in connection with a band of Tories, the savages destroyed Harpersfield, and then marched to the attack of the Upper Schoharie Fort. On their way they captured Captain Alexander Harper and a small company who were with him, engaged in making maple sugar. Three of the yeomanry were killed, and ten ma:de prisoners and taken to Niagara. With difficulty Brant kept his Indians from murdering them by the way. At Niagara Harper met with his niece, the daughter of Mr. Moore, of Cherry Valley, whose family, with that of Colonel Campbell, was carried into captivity in 1778. She had married a British officer named Powell, and through his exertions Captain Harper and his ,associates were kindly treated at Niagara. But they were doomed to a long absence from home, for they were not released until the peace in 1783 opened all the prison doors."
The borders of Wyoming, and the Dutch settlements along the western frontiers of the
people of every kind. He made the spring and other seasons,
and the weather suitable for planting. These he did make. But stills to
make whisky to give to the Indians he DID NOT make. . . . . . . The Great
Spirit has ordered me to stop drinking, and he wishes me to inform the people
that they should quit drinking intoxicating drinks."
1 Lieutenant-colonel Hubley, an officer of the Pennsylvania line, has left an interesting account of this expedition in his Journal. He says that, on the 25th of September, the army held a celebration in testimony of their pleasure" in consequence of the accession of the King of Spain to the American alliance, and the generous proceedings of Congress in augmenting the subsistence of the officers and men." General Sullivan ordered five of his fattest bullocks to be slaughtered, one for the officers of each brigade. In the evening, after the discharge of thirteen cannons, the whole army performed a feu de joie. Thirteen appropriate toasts were drunk. The last was as follows: "May the enemies of America be metamorphosed into pack horses, and sent on a western expedition against the Indians."
2 A remnant of this tribe now occupies land in the vicinity of Rome, Oneida county, New York.
3 Among the Tory captors of Harper and his associates was a brute named Becraft, who boasted of having assisted in the murder of the Vrooman family in Scho He had the audacity to return to Schoharie after the war. The returned prisoners, who had heard his boast, and others, informed of his presence, caught him, stripped him naked, and, tying him to a tree, gave him a severe castigation with hickory whip. They enumerated his several crimes, and then gave him a goodly number of stripes for each. On releasing him, they charged him never to come to the county again. Of course he did not.
present Ulster and Orange counties, suffered from scalping parties during the spring and summer of 1780. We have already noticed the destruction of the settlement and mills at Little Falls, on the Mohawk; also the devastation of the Canajoharie settlements and the hamlet at Fort Plain, which occurred in August of that year. The irruption of Sir John Johnson into the valley in the neighborhood of Johnstown will be considered when writing of my visit to Johnson Hall.
During the autumn an extensive expedition was planned against the Mohawk and (1780.) Schoharie settlements. The Indians were thirsting for revenge for the wrongs and misery inflicted by Sullivan. The leaders were Sir John Johnson, Brant, and the famous half-breed Seneca warrior, Corn Planter.(1) The Indians rendezvoused at Tioga Point, and, ascending the Susquehanna, formed a junction at Unadilla with Sir John Johnson and his forces, which consisted of three companies of his Greens, one company of German Yagers, two hundred of Butler's Rangers, one company of British regulars, under Captain Duncan, and a number of Mohawks. They came from Montreal by way of Oswego, bringing with them two small mortars, a brass three pounder, and a piece called a grasshopper.
The plan agreed upon by the invaders was, to proceed along the Charlotte River, the east branch of the Susquehanna, to its source, thence across to the head of the Schoharie, sweep all the settlements along its course to its junction with the Mohawk, and then devastate that beautiful valley down to Schenectady. They began their march at nightfall, and before morning they had passed the Upper Fort unobserved, and (October 15.) were applying the torch to dwellings near the Middle Fort (Middleburgh). At daylight signal guns at the Upper Fort announced the discovery of the enemy there, but it was too late to save the property, already in flames. The proceeds of a bountiful harvest were in the barns, and stacks of hay and grain were abundant.
Major Woolsey, who seems to have been a poltroon,(2) was the commander of the garrison at the Middle Fort, and sent out a detachment against the foe, under Lieutenant Spencer, who was repulsed, but returned to the fort without losing a man. That post was now formally invested by the enemy, and Sir John Johnson sent a flag, with a summons to surrender. The bearer was fired upon by Murphy, the rifleman already mentioned, but was unhurt; and, on his return to the camp, Johnson commenced a siege. The feeble garrison had but little ammunition, while the enemy, though well supplied, did very little execution with his own. The siege was a singular, and even ridiculous, military display. While a party of the besiegers were awkwardly trying to cast bomb-shells into the apology for a fort, the rest were valiantly attacking deserted houses and stacks of grain. Failing to make any impression, Sir John sent another flag toward noon. Murphy again fired upon the bearer, and again missed his mark. Woolsey had ordered him to desist, but Murphy plainly told his commanding officer that he was a coward, and meant to surrender the fort; and excused his breach of the rules of war in firing upon a flag by the plea that the enemy, in all his conduct, paid no regard whatever to military courtesy.
The siege continued, and again a flag was sent, and was fired upon a third time by Murphy. The officers and regulars in the fort had menaced him with death if he should again thus violate the rules of war. But the militia, among whom he was a great favorite, rallied around him, and Woolsey and his men were set at defiance. At length Johnson, suspecting the garrison to be much stronger than it really was, or fearing re-enforcements might arrive from Albany, abandoned the siege, and marched rapidly down the valley, destroying
1 Corn Planter now first became conspicuous. According to
Stone, this chief, and the afterward more famous Red Jacket, were among
the Indians at the battle of Chemung. They became rivals, and Red Jacket
finally supplanted Corn Planter. Brant always despised Red Jacket, for he
declared him to have acted the part of a coward during Sullivan's expedition,
in trying to get the chiefs to sue for peace upon the most ignominious terms.
2 Campbell, in his Annals, says, "Woolsey's presence of mind forsook him in the hour of danger. He concealed himself at first with the women and children in the house, and, when driven out by the ridicule of his new associates, he crawled around the intrenchments on his hands and knees, amid the jeers and bravos of the militia, who felt their courage revive as their laughter was excited by the cowardice of the major."
with fire every thing combustible in his way. He attacked the Lower Fort, but, being repulsed by a shower of grape-shot and musket-balls from the garrison in the church, he continued his march down the river to Fort Hunter,(1) at its junction with the Mohawk. Not a house, barn, or grain-stack, known to belong to a Whig, was left standing, and it was estimated that one hundred thousand bushels of grain were destroyed by the invaders in that one day's march. The houses and other property of the Tories were spared, but the exasperated Whigs set them on fire as soon as the enemy had gone, and all shared a common fate. Only two persons in the besieged fort were killed, but about one hundred of the inhabitants were murdered during the day. The Vroomans, a numerous family in Schoharie, suffered much, many of them being among the slain.
( October, 1780) Sir John remained at Fort Hunter on the 17th, and destroyed every thing belonging to the Whigs in the neighborhood. On the 18th he began a devastating march up the Mohawk Valley. Caughnawaga was laid in ashes, and every dwelling on both sides of the river, as far up as Fort Plain, was destroyed.(2) On the night of the 18th Sir John encamped with his forces near" The Nose," and the following morning he crossed the Mohawk at Keder's Rifts,(3) sending a detachment of fifty men to attack a small stockade called Fort Paris, in Stone Arabia, about three miles north of the river. The main body kept in motion at the same time, and continued the work of destruction along the wide line of its march.
As soon as the irruption of Johnson into the Schoharie settlement was made known at Albany, Governor George Clinton, accompanied by General Robert Van Rensselaer, of Claverack, at the head of a strong body of militia, marched to the succor of the people in Tryon county. They arrived at Caughnawaga on the 18th, while it was yet in flames; and, ascertaining that Fort Paris was to be attacked the next day, Van Rensselaer dispatched orders to Colonel Brown, then stationed there, to march out and meet the enemy. Brown promptly obeyed, and near a ruined military work, called Fort Keyser, confronted the invaders. A sharp action ensued, and the overwhelming numbers of the enemy bore down the gallant little band of Brown, who, with forty of his soldiers, was slain.(4) The remainder of his troops found safety in flight.
1 Fort Hunter was built at the mouth of the Schoharie Creek
during the French and Indian war. It inclosed an edifice called Queen Anne's
Chapel, to which a parsonage, built of stone, was attached. The old fort
was torn down at the commencement of the Revolution, but it was afterward
partially restored and often garrisoned. The chapel was demolished in 1820,
to make room for the Erie Canal. The parsonage is still standing in the
town of Florida, half a mile below the Schoharie, and a few rods south of
2 Among the many sufferers at this time was Major Jelles Fonda, from whom the present village of Fonda, near old Caughnawaga, derives its name. He was absent from home at the time, attending a meeting of the state Legislature, of which he was a member, then in session at Poughkeepsie, Dutchess county. His mansion was at a place called" The Nose," in the town of Palatine. His wife escaped under cover of a thick fog, and on foot made her way to Schenectady. The house was burned, together with property valued at $60,000.-.Antiquarian Researches, by Giles F. Yates, Esq.
3 Rifts are short, shallow rapids, the frequent occurrence of which in the Mohawk River makes navigation of that stream, even with bateaux, quite difficult.
4 Colonel Brown was a distinguished soldier in former campaigns of the Revolution in the Northern Department, as the reader has already noticed. He was born in Sandersfield, Berksbire county, Massachusetts, October 19th, 1744. He graduated at Yale College in 1771, and studied law with Oliver Arnold (a cousin of the traitor), at Providence, Rhode Island. He commenced practice at Caughnawaga, New York, and was appointed king's attorney. He soon went to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he became active in the patriot cause. He was chosen by the State Committee of Correspondence, in 1774, to go to Canada to excite rebellion, in which perilous duty he had many adventures. He was elected to Congress in 1775, but before the meeting of that body he had joined the expedition under Allen and Arnold against Ticonderoga. He assisted in the capture of Fort Chambly in the autumn of that year, and planned the attack on Montreal, which resulted so disastrously to Colonel Ethan Allen. He was at the storming of Quebec at the close of the year. The following year Congress gave him the commission of lieutenant colonel. In 1777 he conducted the expedition that attacked Ticonderoga and other posts in its vicinity, released one hundred American prisoners at Lake George, and captured quite a large quantity of provisions and stores belonging to the enemy. Soon after this he retired from the service on account of his detestation of Arnold. Three years before the latter became a traitor, Brown published a hand-bill, in which he denounced him as an avaricious and unprincipled man, charged him with" selling many a life for gain," and predicted that he would prove a traitor, in the remarkable words with which the hand-bill closed: "Money is this man's
Sir John now dispersed his forces in small bands to the distance of five or six miles in each direction, to pillage the county. He desolated Stone Arabia, and, proceeding to a place called Klock's Field, halted to rest. General Van Rensselaer, with a considerable force, was in close pursuit. He had been joined by Captain M'Kean, with a corps of volunteers, and a strong body of Oneida warriors, led by their principal chief, Louis Atyataronghta, whom Congress had commissioned a colonel.(1) His whole force was now fifteen hundred strong. Van Rensselaer's pursuit was on the south side of the Mohawk, while Johnson was ravaging the country on the north side. Johnson took care to guard the ford while his halting army was resting, and the pursuers were there kept at bay. The tardy movements of Van Rensselaer, who, instead of pushing across to attack the wearied troops of the invader, rode off to Fort Plain to dine with Governor Clinton, were justly censured; and the Oneida chief even denounced him as a Tory. This accusation, and the remonstrances of some of his officers, quickened his movements, and toward evening his forces crossed the river and were arrayed for battle. The whites of the enemy were upon a small plain partially guarded by a bend in the river, while Brant, with his Indians, occupied, in secret, a thicket of shrub oaks in the vicinity. The van of the attack was led by the late General Morgan Lewis, then a colonel. Colonel Dubois commanded the extreme right, and the left was led by Colonel Cuyler, of Albany. Captain M'Kean and the Oneidas were near the right. Johnson's right was composed of regular troops; the center, of his Greens; and his left was the Indian ambuscade. When the patriots approached, Brant raised the war-whoop, and in a few moments a general battle ensued. [Battle of Klock's Field] The charge of the Americans was so impetuous that the enemy soon gave way and fled. Brant was wounded in the heel, but escaped. Van Rensselaer's troops wished to pursue the enemy, but it was then twilight, and he would not allow it. They were ordered to fall back and encamp for the night, a movement which caused much dissatisfaction.(2)
God, and to get enough of it he would sacrifice his
country!" This was published at Albany in
the winter of 1776-7, while Arnold was quartered there. Arnold was greatly
excited when told of it, called Brown a scoundrel, and declared that he
would kick him whensoever and wheresoever they might meet. This declaration
was communicated to Brown. The next day, Brown, by invitation, went to a
dinner where bc would meet Arnold. The latter was standing with his back
to the fire when the former entered the door, and he and Brown thus met
each other face to face. Brown walked boldly up to Arnold, and, looking
him sternly in the face, said, "I understand, sir, that you have said
you would kick me. I now present myself to give you an opportunity to put
your threat into execution." Arnold made no reply. Brown then said,
"Sir, you are a dirty scoundrel." Arnold was still silent, and
Brown left the room, after apologizing to the gentlemen present for his
Colonel Brown, after he left the army, was occasionally employed in the Massachusetts service. In the fall of 1780, with many of the Berkshire militia, he marched up the Mohawk Valley, to act as circumstances might require. He was slain at Stone Arabia on his birth-day (October 19th, 1780), aged 35 years. On his way to the Mohawk country, he called upon Ann Lee, the founder of the sect of Shaking Quakers in this country, then established near Albany. He assured her, by way of pleasantry, that on his return he should join her society. A fortnight after his death two members of the society waited upon his widow, told her that her husband, in spirit, had joined "Mother Ann," and that he had given express orders for her to become a member. She was not to be duped, and bade them begone. On the anniversary of Colonel Brown's death (as well as of his birth), in 1836, a monument was reared to his memory by his son, the late Henry Brown, Esq., of Berkshire, Massachusetts, near the place where he fell, in the town of Palatine. Upon the monument is the following inscription:
In memory of Colonel JOHN BROWN,
who was killed in battle on the 19th day of October, 1780,
at Palatine, in the county of Montgomery.
1 He was a representative of three nations,
for in his veins ran the blood of the French, Indian, and negro.
2 While some of M'Kean's volunteers were strolling about, waiting for the main army to cross, they
came upon a small block-house, where nine of the enemy were in custody, having surrendered during the night. On ono of them being asked how he came there, his answer was a sharp commentary upon the criminal inaction of General Van Rensselaer. "Last night, after the battle," he said, "we crossed the river; it was dark; we heard the word 'lay down your arms;' some of us did so. We were taken, nine
* Stone's Life of Brant, ii., 117.
Louis and M'Kean did not strictly obey orders, and early in the morning they started off with their forces in pursuit. Johnson, with the Indians and Yagers, fled toward Onondaga Lake, where they had left their boats concealed. His Greens and the Rangers followed. Van Rensselaer and his whole force pursued them as far as Fort Herkimer, at the German Flats, and there M'Kean and Louis were ordered to press on in advance after the fugitives. They struck the trail of Johnson the next morning, and soon afterward came upon his deserted camp while the fires were yet burning. Van Rensselaer had promised to push forward to their support; but, having little confidence in the celerity of his movements, and fearing an ambuscade, Louis refused to advance any further until assured that the main body of the Americans was near. The advanced party halted, and were soon informed by a messenger that Van Rensselaer had actually abandoned the pursuit, and was then on his return march! It was a shameful neglect of advantage, for, with proper skill and action, Johnson might have been captured at the Nose,(1) before Stone Arabia was desolated, or else overtaken and secured in his flight.
When Van Rensselaer heard of the concealment of Johnson's boats on the Onondaga, he dispatched a messenger to Captain Vrooman, then in command at Fort Schuyler, ordering him to go with a strong detachment and destroy them. Vrooman instantly obeyed. One of his men feigned sickness at Oneida, and was left behind. He was there when Johnson arrived, and informed him of Vrooman's expedition. Brant and a body of Indians hastened forward, came upon Vrooman and his party while at dinner, and captured the whole of them without firing a gun. Johnson had no further impediments in his way, and easily escaped to Canada by way of Oswego, taking with him Captain Vrooman and his party prisoners, but leaving behind him a great number of his own men(2) Tryon county enjoyed comparative repose through the remainder of the autumn and part of the winter.
In January, 1781, Brant was again upon the war-path in the neighborhood of Fort Schuyler. The slender barrier of the Oneida nation had been broken the previous year by driving that people upon the white settlements, and the warriors from Niagara had an unimpeded way to the Mohawk Valley. They were separated into small parties, and cut off load after load of supplies on their way to Forts Plain, Dayton, and Schuyler. During the month of March two detachments of soldiers near Fort Schuyler were made prisoners, and the provisions they were guarding were captured. All the information that could be got respecting the movements of the enemy strengthened the belief that it was his determination to make another invasion of the valley, and penetrate, if possible, as far as the settlement at Schenectady, to destroy the Oneidas who had found shelter there.
Already the scarcity of provisions at Forts Schuyler and Dayton warned the people that, if supplies were not speedily obtained, those posts must be abandoned, and the whole county would thus be left open to the savages. The distress at Fort Schuyler was greatly increased by a flood early in May, which overflowed the works and destroyed considerable provisions. The damage was so great, that it was decided, at a council of officers, that the strength of (May 12,1781.) the garrison was totally inadequate to make proper repairs. A few days afterward the destruction of the fort was completed by fire, the work, it was supposed, of an incendiary. The post was then necessarily abandoned, and the garrison was marched down to Forts Dayton and Plain.
of us, and marched into this little fort by seven militia
men. We formed the rear of three hundred of Johnson's Greens, who were running
promiscuously through and over one another. I thought General Van Rensselaer's
whole army was upon us. Why did you not take us prisoners yesterday, after
Sir John ran off with the Indians and left us? We wanted to surrender."
The man was a Tory of the valley.-See Life of Brant, ii, 123.
1 The Nose, or Anthony's Nose, as it is sometimes called, is a bluff at a narrow part of the Mohawk, in the town of Palatine, and derives its name from the circumstance that its form is something like that of the human nose. Here a ridge evidently once crossed the valley and kept the waters in check above, for the effects of the action of running streams and eddies are very prominent in the rocks. At the upper end of the plain below are bowlders and large gravel stones, which diminish to sand at the lower end.
2 Campbell's Annals.
At this period every thing combined to cast gloom over the Mohawk country. Vermont, as we have noticed in a former chapter, had assumed an equivocal position, amounting al. most, in appearance, to a treasonable rebellion against Congress. General Haldimand, with a large regular force, was menacing the northern country from his post upon Lake Champlain; the Johnsons, Butlers, and Brant were laying plans for an extensive invasion of Tryon county and the settlements near the Delaware; the forts that served for a defense for the people were weak from lack of provisions, ammunition, and men; the principal one, the key to the Mohawk Valley from the west, was destroyed; and, worse than all, a spirit of discontent and despondency was rife in that quarter, induced by the inefficiency of Congress in furnishing supplies, and the seeming hopelessness of the patriot cause. General Schuyler and others expressed their conviction that, if another invading army should come upon the settlements during the existing state of things, large numbers of the people would join the royal standard. The undisciplined militia, necessarily engaged in farm labor, and often insubordinate, were a weak reliance, and nothing but an efficient military force, either of paid levies or soldiers of the regular army, could give confidence and real protection.
The expectation of such aid was but a feeble ray of hope at the beginning of the summer, for Washington and the French commander (De Rochambeau) were concocting plans far more important than the defense of a single frontier section of the vast extent of the colonies. Governor Clinton was greatly pained and embarrassed by the gloomy prospect in his department. In this dilemma, his thoughts turned to Colonel Willett, who had just been appointed to the command of one of the two regiments formed by the consolidation of five New York regiments. His name was a "tower of strength" among the people of the Mohawk Valley, and Clinton implored him to take command of all the militia levies and state troops that might be raised for the summer campaigns. He consented, left the main army, and established his head-quarters at Fort Rensselaer' (Canajoharie), toward the close of June.
The spirits of the people were revived, although the forces of Willett consisted of mere (1781.) fragments of companies hastily collected from the ruins of the last campaign. " I confess myself," he said, in a letter to Governor Clinton, "not a little disappointed in having such a trifling force for such extensive business as I have now on my hands; and, also, that nothing is done to enable me to avail myself of the militia. The prospect of a suffering country hurts me. Upon my own account I am not uneasy. Every thing I can do shall be done; and more can not be looked for. If it is, the reflection that I have done my duty must fix my tranquility.(2)"
While the enemy is threatening invasion and Willett is preparing to repel him, let us turn from the exciting chronicle, and resume our quiet journey, in the course of which some of the stirring incidents of the subsequent strife between the patriots and the enemy, in Tryon county, will come up in review.
1 This was upon the Canajoharie Creek, near the junction
of its two branches, in the town of Root.
2 Willett's Narrative.
Copyright © 1998, -- 2004. 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.