History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Celebrations of the State of New York
Prepared pursuant to a Concurrent Resolution
of the Legislature of 1878 and Chapter 391 of the Laws of 1879
By Allen C. Beach, Secretary of State.
Weed, Parsons & Co. Printers 1879.
Historical Background, Roster of Oriskany
Hon. Ellis H. Roberts' Historical Address
The Name Oriskany
The orthographs of Oriskany has been settled by custom contrary to Indian euphony. St. Leger writes it Oriska; Colonel Willett changes the initial to Eriska; Captain Deygart (Clinton manuscripts) writes Orisco. In London documents (Colonial History, vol. 8, p. 690), we find Oriske.
In a "Chorographical map of the Province of New York, " London, 1779, is Ochriscany Patent granted to T. Wenham & Co. In a map of 1790, this becomes Ochriskeney) Documentary History of New York, vol. 1.)
In his League of the Iroquois, L. H. Morgan gives the Indian derivation, showing that the name comes from the Mohawk dialect.
In the several dialects the form is as follows:
Seneca dialect, O-his-heh; Cayuga, O-his-ha; Onondaga, O-his-ka; Tuscarora, Ose-hase-keh; Oneida, Ole-hisk; Mohawk Ole-his-ka; the significance in each case being the Place of Nettles. 'The last syllable of Oriskany is a termination signifying a stream, the same as ana or anna.
2. Building of Fort Stanwix.
The building of Fort Stanwix, in 1758, is recorded in Documentary History of New York, vol. 4, p. 323, and a topographical map is given of the country between the Mohawk and Wood Creek, from an actual survey in November, 1758. General Abercrombie's order to General Stanwix to erect the fort is there preserved. Fort Williams had at an earlier day stood in the neighborhood. Fort Stanwix was not finished in 1760, when M. Pouchot passed it. (Hough's Translation of his Memoir, p. 138.)
Out of compliment to General Philip Schuyler the attempt was made to change the name of this Fort, but old Peter Schuyler had given the title to the old Fort at Utica, and Stanwix has clung to the historic work at Rome.
3. Peace Councils at Fort Stanwix.
In 1768 it had been the scene of an important council, when thirty-two hundred Indians of the Six Nations assembled to treat with representatives of Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Sir William Johnson then closed the "Treaty of Fort Stanwix." The original record will be found in the Documents relating to the Colonial History o New York, vol. 8, p. 111, and following.
In 1768 a grand council was held here between the chiefs of the Six Nations and commissioners on the part of the United States, and a treaty of peace was negotiated.
4. St. Leger's Troops Designated in London.
This extract from an official letter from Lord George Germaine to General Carleton, dated Whitehall, twenty-six March, 1777, is taken from the "State of the Expedition from Canada," published in London, 1780, by General Burgoyne in his own defense: "With a view of quelling the rebellion as quickly as possible, it is become highly necessary that the most speedy junction of the tow armies should be effected, and therefore, as the security and good government of Canada absolutely require your presence there, it is the King's determination to leave about 3,000 men under your command, and to employ the remainder of your army upon two expeditions,the one under the command of Lieutenant-General Burgoyne, who is to force his way to Albany, and the other under command of Lieutenant-Colonel St. Leger, who is to make a diversion on the Mohawk river.
this plan cannot be advantageously executed without the assistance of Canadians
and Indians, His Majesty strongly recommends it to your care to furnish both
expeditions with good and sufficient bodies of those men; and I am happy in
knowing that your influence among them is so great that there can be no room
to apprehend that you will find it difficult to fulfill His Majesty's expectations.
* * * *
It is the King's further pleasure that you put under the command of Colonel St. Leger:
Detachment from the 8th Regiment ..............100
Detachment form the 34th Regiment.............100
Sir John Johnson's regiment of New York......133
Total of 675
together with a sufficient number of Indians and Canadians, and after having furnished him with proper artillery;, stores, provisions and every other necessary article for his expedition, and secured to him every assistance in your power to afford and procure, you are to give him orders to proceed forthwith to and down to the Mohawk river to Albany and put himself under the command of Sir William Howe.
"I shall write to Sir William Howe from hence by the first packet; but you will nevertheless endeavor to give him the earliest intelligence of this measure, and also direct Lieutenant-General Burgoyne and Lieutenant-Colonel St. Leger to neglect no opportunity of doing the same, that they may receive instructions from Sir William Howe. You will at the same time inform them that until they shall have received orders from Sir William Howe, it is His Majesty's pleasure that they act as exigencies may require, and in such manner as they shall judge most proper for making an impression on the rebels and bringing them to obedience; but that in so doing they must never lose view of their intended junctions with Sir William Howe as their principal objects.
"In case Lieutenant-General Burgoyne or Lieutenant-Colonel St. Leger should happen to die or be rendered, through illness, incapable of executing these great trusts, you are to nominate to their respective commands such officer or officers as you shall think best qualified to supply the place of those whom His Majesty has, in his wisdom, at present appointed to conduct these expeditions."
5. Kirkland and the Indians.
Reverend Samuel Kirkland wrote to the committee at Albany, June 9, 1775: "Colonel Johnson has orders from government (of course the British government) to remove the dissenting minister from the Six Nations, till the difficulties between Great Britain and the colonies are settled. * * * All he has against me I suppose to be this: A suspicion that I have interpreted to the Indians the doings of the Continental Congress, which has undeceived and too much opened the eyes of the Indians for Colonel Johnson's purposes. I confess to you, gentlemen, that I have been guilty of this, if it be any transgression. * * * I apprehend my interpreting the doings of the Congress to their sachems has done more real service to the cause of the country, or the cause of truth and justice, than 500 pounds in presents would have effected." Jones' Annals of Oneida County, p. 852.
6. General Schuyler's Fear.
In a letter to the Committee of Safety, dated July 24, 1777, General Schuyler says:
"If Burgoyne can penetrate to Albany, the force which is certainly coming by way of Oswego, will find no difficulty in reaching the Mohawk river, and being arrived there, will be joined by Tories not only, but by every person that finds himself capable of removing, and wishes to make his peace with the enemy, and by the whole body of the Six Nations."
7. Sir John Johnson The British Leader at Oriskany.
William L. Stone, to whom so much is due for a fair statement of the Battle of Oriskany, insists that Sir John Johnson was not in the battle at all, naming Watts, Butler and Brant, in this order as leaders. And W. W. Campbell, in his Annals of Tryon county, places the "Indians and Tories under Brant and Butler." Irving in his Life of Washington follows these authorities. Stone justifies his denial of Johnson's presence in the battle by Colonel Willett's assertion in his narrative, that Singleton, one of the prisoners taken in the sortie, told him that "Sir John Johnson was with him (Singleton) when the camp was attacked." These words of Willett are in the paraphrase by Willett's son (Narrative, page 53), transformed into a statement that Johnson was "in his tent with his coat off, and had not time to put it on before his camp was forced."
In view of the importance of the operations then in progress this statement is intrinsically improbable. It is contradicted by the positive language of St. Leger, who, in his Narrative (Burgoyne's Defense) clearly says; "Sir John Johnson put himself at the head of the party," which went to Oriskany, "and began his march that evening at five o'clock, and met the rebel corps at the same hour next morning." St. Leger attempted a movement against the sortie, but he used Lieutenants only, as he could not have done if Johnson had been in camp. See the tenth section of This Appendix.
In an official letter from colonel Daniel Claus (St. Leger's superintendent of Indians), he distinctly avers" "Sir John Johnson asked leave to join his company of light infantry and head the whole, which was granted; Colonel Butler and other Indian officers were ordered with the Indians." Colonial History, vol. 8, p. 721.
President Dwight (Travels, vol. 3, p. 194), who made the battle a study in 1799, at Whitestown and Rome, says: "Sir John had scarcely left the ground to attack General Herkimer." And again after the battle: "At the return of Sir John." (P. 195.) This was the clear understanding of the generation to whom about the battlefield and the Fort, the fight was as the alphabet; and it has the weight of authority in its favor.
Indeed, taking the language of St. Leger and Claus togther, it is absolutely incontrovertible.
8. General Putnam Aids in the Relief.
In the Clinton Papers at Albany is the original of the following letter:
Peck's Kill, August 14, 1777.
"Dear Sir:-- Received yours of the fourteenth inst. In consequence of it and former orders received from General Washington, have ordered Colonel Cortlandt's relief of Fort Schuyler, or as you shall see fit to direct them.
"I wish them a speedy and safe arrival and you most successful enterprise against those worse than infernals.
"With great respect, I am your obedient humble servant.
To his Excellency, Governor Clinton."
9. Governor Clinton to the Committee of Safety.
The following is the text of a letter from Governor George Clinton, copied from the original in the State Library at Albany:
Albany, August 22, 1777.
"General Harchheimer is dead of his wounds. His leg was taken off and he survived it but a few hours. General Arnold with his party is at Fort Dayton. About 100 of the militia of Tryon county only are with him. I have issued my positive orders to the officers commanding the respective regiments there to detach one-half to join General Arnold's army. Colonels Cortland's and Livingston's regiments march this evening for his further reinforcement.
"The enemy in that quarter having acquired a considerable accession of numbers from Indians and Tories, the above measurer were rendered necessary. The garrison however, by very late accounts, are high in spirits and well provided, and I have no doubt we shall in a few days receive the most agreeable intelligence from that quarter. From the Oneidas and Tuscororas, whose chieftains are now with General Arnold, we have the fullest assurance of assistance but have nothing to expect from any other tribes of the Six Nations until our successes intimidate them into friendship. Since the affair at Bennington the scalping business seems to have ceased."
10. St. Leger's Own Narrative.
General Burgoyne published in London, in 178-, a defense of his campaign in America, under the title: "At State of the expedition from Canada, as laid before the House of Commons." In the Appendix is the following interesting documents:
"Colonel St. Leger's Account of Occurrences at Fort Stanwix."
"A minute detail of every operation since my leaving LaChine, with the detachment entrusted to my care, your excellency will permit me to reserve to a time of less hurry and mortification than the present, while I enter into the interesting scene before Fort Stanwix, which I invested the third of August, having previously pushed forward Lieutenant Bird of the King's regiment, with thirty of the King's troops and two hundred Indians, under the direction of Captains Hare and Wilson, and the Chiefs Joseph and Bull, to seize fast hold of the lower landing place, and thereby cut off the enemy's communication with the lower country. This was done with great address by the Lieutenant, though not attended with the effect I had promised myself, occasioned by the slackness of the Messasagoes. The brigade of provisions and ammunition boats I had intelligence of being arrived and disembarked before this party had taken post.
"The fourth and fifth were employed in making arrangements for opening Wood Creek (which the enemy, with indefatigable labor of one hundred and fifty men, for fourteen days, had most effectually choked up) and the making of a temporary road from Pine Ridges, upon Fish Creek, sixteen miles from the fort, for a present supply of provision and the transport of our artillery; the first was effected by the diligence and zeal of Captain Bouville, assisted by Captain Herkimer, of the Indian department, with one hundred and ten men, in nine days; while Lieutenant Lundy, acting as assistant quarter master general, had rendered the road, in the worst of weather, sufficiently practicable to pass the whole artillery and stores, with seven days' provision, in two days.
"On the fifth, in the evening, intelligence arrived by my discovering parties on the Mohawk river, that a reinforcement of eight hundred militia, conducted by General Herkimer, were on their march to relieve the garrison, and were actually at that instant at Oriska, an Indian settlement, twelve miles from the fort. The garrison being apprised of their march by four men, who were seen to enter the fort in the morning, through what was thought an impenetrable swamp, I did not think it prudent to wait for them, and thereby subject myself to be attacked by a sally from the garrison in the rear, while the reinforcement employed me in front. I therefore determined to attack them on the march, either openly or covertly, as circumstances should offer. At this time, I had not two hundred and fifty of the king's troops in camp; the various and extensive operations if was under an absolute necessity of entering into, having employed the rest; and therefore could not send above eighty white men, rangers and troops included, with the whole corps of Indians. Sir John Johnson put himself at the head of this party, and began his march that evening at five o'clock, and met the rebel corps at the same hour the next morning. The impetuosity of the Indians is not to be described on the sight of the enemy (forgetting the judicious disposition formed by Sire John, and agreed to by themselves, which was to suffer the attack to begin with the troops in front, while they should be on both flanks and rear), they rushed in hatchet in hand, and thereby gave the enemy's rear an opportunity to escape. In relation tot he victory it was equally complete, as if the whole had fallen; nay, more so, as the two hundred who escaped only served to spread the panic wider; but it was not so with the Indians; their loss was great. (I must be understood Indian computation, being only about thirty killed and the like number wounded, and in that number some of their favorite chiefs and confidential warriors were slain.) On the enemy's side, almost all their principal leaders were slain. General Herkimer has since died of his wounds. It is proper to mention, that the four men detached with intelligence of the march of the reinforcement, set out the evening before the action, and consequently the enemy could have no account of the defeat, and were in possession only of the time appointed for their arrival, at which, as I suspected, they made a sally with tow hundred and fifty men toward Lieutenant Bird's post, to facilitate the entrance of the relieving corps, or bring on a general engagement, with every advantage they could wish.
"Captain Hoyes was immediately detached to cut in upon their rear, while they engaged the lieutenant. Immediately upon the departure of Captain Hoyes, having learned that Lieutenant Bird, misled by the information of a cowardly Indian, that Sir John was pressed, had quitted his post to march to his assistance, I marched the detachment of the King's regiment, in support of Captain Hoyes, by a road in sight of the garrison, which, with executive fire from his party, immediately drove the enemy into the fort, without any further advantage than frightening some squaws and pilfering the packs of the warriors which they left behind them. After this affair was over, orders were immediately given to complete a two-gun battery, and mortar beds, with three strong redoubts in their rear, to enable me, in case of another attempt to relieve the garrison by their regimental troops, to march out a larger body of the King's troops.
"Captain Lernoult was sent with one hundred and ten men to the lower landing place, where he established himself with great judgment and strength, having an enclosed battery of a three pounder opposed to any sally from the fort, and another to the side of the country, where a relief must approach; and the body of his camp deeply entrenched and abbatised.
"When by the unabating labor of officers and men (the smallness of our numbers never admitting of a relief, or above three hours' cessation for sleep or cooking), the batteries and redoubts were finished, and new cheeks and axle-trees made for the six pounders, those that were sent being rotten and unserviceable.
"It was found that our cannon had not the least effect upon the sod work of the fort, and that our royals had only the power of teasing, as a six inch plank was a sufficient security for their powder magazine, as we learnt from the deserters. At this time Lieutenant Glenie, of the artillery, whom I appointed to act as assistant engineer, proposed a conversion of the royals (if I may use the expression) into howitzers. The ingenuity and feasibility of this measure striking me very strongly, the business was set about immediately, and soon executed, when it was found that nothing prevented their operating with the desired effect but the distance, their chambers being too small to hold a sufficiency of powder. There was nothing now to be done but to approach the town by sap to such a distance that the rampart might be brought within their practice, at the same time all the materials were preparing to run a mine under their most formidable bastion.
"In the midst of these operations intelligence was brought in by our scouts, of a second corps of 1,000 men being on their march. The same zeal no longer animated the Indians; they complained of our thinness of troops and their former losses. I immediately called a council of the chiefs; encouraged them as much as I could; promised to lead them on myself, and bring into the field 200 of the best troops. They listened to this, and promised to follow me, and agreed that I should reconnoiter the ground propherest for the field of battle the next morning, accompanied by some of their chief warriors to settle the plan of operations. When upon the ground appointed for the field of battle, scouts came in with the account of the first number swelled to 2,000; immediately after a third, that General Burgoyne's army was cut to pieces, and that Arnold was advancing by rapid and forced marches with 3,000 men. It was at this moment I began to suspect cowardice in some and treason in other; however, I returned to camp, not without hopes, with the assistance of my gallant coadjutor, Sir John Johnson, and the influence of the superintending colonels, Claus and Butler, of inducing them to meet the enemy. A council, according to their custom, was called, to know their resolutions, before the breaking up of which I learned that 200 were already decamped. In about an hour they insisted that I should retreat, or they would be obliged to abandon me. I had no other party to take, and a hard party it was to troops who could do nothing without them, to yield to their resolves; and therefore proposed to retire at night, sending on before my sick, wounded, artillery, etc., down the Wood Creek, covering them by our line of march.
"This did not fall in with their views, which were no less than treacherously committing ravage upon their friends, as they had lost the opportunity of doing it upon their enemies. To effect this they artfully caused messengers to come in, one after the other, with accounts of the near approaches of the rebels; one and the last affirmed that they were within two miles of Captain Lernoult's post. Not giving entire credit to this, and keeping to my resolution of retiring by night, they grew furious and abandoned; seized upon the officers' liquor and cloths, in spite of the efforts of their servants, and become more formidable than the enemy we had to expect. I now thought it time to call in Captain Lernoult's post, retiring with the troops in camp to the ruined fort called William, in the front of the garrison, not only to wait the enemy if they thought proper to sally, but to protect the boats from the fury of the savages, having sent forward Captain Hoyes with his detachment, with one piece of cannon, to the place where Bull Fort stood, to receive the troops who waited the arrival of Captain Lermoult. Most of the boats were escorted that night beyond Canada Creek, where no danger was to be apprehended from the enemy. The creek at this place, bending from the road, has a deep cedar swamp between. Every attention was now turned to the mouth of the creek, which the enemy might have possessed themselves of by a rapid march by the Oneyda Castle. At this place the whole of the little army arrived by twelve o'clock at night, and too post in such a manner as to have no fears of anything that the enemy could do. Here we remained till three o'clock next morning, when the boats which could come up the creek arrived, or rather that the rascally part of all nations of the Indians would suffer to come up; and proceeded across Lake Oneyda to the ruined Fort of Brereton, where I learnt that some boats were still laboring down the creek, after being lightened of the best part of their freight by the Messasgoes. Captain Lernoult proposed, with a boat full of armed men, to repass the lake that night to relieve them from their labor, and supply them with provision. This transaction does as much honor to the humanity as to the gallantry of this valuable officer.
"On my arrival at the Onondago Falls I received an answer to my letter from Your Excellency, which showed, in the clearest light, the scenes of treachery that had been practiced upon me. The messenger had heard indeed on his way that they were collecting the same kind of rabble as before, but that they were collecting the same kind of rabble as before, but that there was not an enemy within forty miles of Fort Stanwix.
"Soon after my arrival here I was joined by Captain Lernoult, with the men and boats he had been in search of. I mean immediately to send off for the use of the upper garrison, all the overplus provisions I shall have, after keeping a sufficiency to carry my detachment down, which I mean to do with every expedition in my power the moment this business is effected,f or which purpose I have ordered here the sloop. The sloop is already gone from this with her full lading.
"Officers from each corps are sent to Montreal to procure necessaries for the men who are in the most deplorable situation from the plunger of the savages, that no time may be lost to join your army.
"I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect, sir, Your Excellency's most obedient and most faithful servant,
"Barry St. Leger."
August 27, 1777.
"His Excellency, General Burgoyne."
11. British Authority on the Importance of St. Leger's Expedition.
The first authority of this point is General Buygoyne, who in his paper "for conducting the war from the side of Canada," urges the expedition by "the Lake Ontario and Oswego to the Mohawk River, which," he says, "as a diversion to facilitate every proposed operation,would be highly desirable. (Defense, Appendix.)
Second. It will be remarked in the letter of Lord George Germaine, he announces "the King's determination," to employ the army in Canada "upon two expedition," one by Burgoyne and the other by St. Leger, thus placing both on the same footing. (See the extract from the letter in the fourth section of this Appendix.
The third authority at be cited on this point is the British Annual Register for `777 (under the auspices at least of Edmund Burke), where we read: "In these embarrassing and difficult circumstances General Burgoyne received information that Colonel St. Leger had arrived before, and was conducting his operations against Fort Stanwix. He instantly and justly conceived that a rapid movement forward at this critical period would be of utmost importance. If the enemy proceeded up the Mohawk and tat St. Leger succeeded, he would be liable to get between two fires, or at any rate, General Burgoyne's army would get between him and Albany, so that he must either stand an action or, by passing the Hudson River, endeavor to secure a retreat higher up to the New England provinces. If, on the other hand, he abandoned Fort Stanwix to its fate, and fell back to Albany, the Mohawk country would of course be entirely laid open, the juncture with St. Leger established, and the entire army at liberty and leisure to prescribe and choose its future line of operations."
General Burgoyne in his Defense, uses these words: "It will likewise be remembered that Lieutenant-Colonel St. Leger was at this time before Fort Stanwix; every hour was pregnant with critical events."
The History of the Civil War, by an officer of the (British) Army, London, 1780, says:
"Fortune, which had been hitherto favorable to General Burgoyne, now began to withdraw her caresses, and, like a flirting female, broke from him in the moment of possession."
Consult also section thirteenth of this Appendix.
12. Governor Clinton on the Battle of Oriskany and the Tryon County Militia.
The following important letter is found in the original manuscript in the State Library at Albany. It was addressed to the several colonels in Tryon county.
"Headquarters, Half Moon 22d August, 1777.
"Sir: While I have the highest sense of the loyalty, valor and bravery of the militia of Tryon County, manifested in the victory gained by them under the command of their late worthy General Herkimer, for which, as the chief magistrate of the free and independent State of New York, they have my most hearty thanks, it gives me the greatest pain to be informed that any difficulty should arise in their joining the army under General Arnold, and thereby enabling him to finish the war in that quarter, and restoring peace and safety to the inhabitants of Tryon county. Their noble exertions against the common enemy have already gained them the greatest honor, their perseverance will secure them peace and safety. In both I am greatly interested, and it is my duty and I hereby most positively order that you immediately join General Arnold with one half of your regiment completely armed, equipped and accoutred, and march under his command to the relief of Fort Schuyler. As soon as the service will admit General Arnold will dismiss you. If any are hardy enough to refuse to obey your orders, given in consequence of this, you are immediately to report the names of the same to General Arnold, who will transmit the same to me, that they may be dealt with, with the utmost rigor of the law.
am your obedient servant,
Frederick Sammons in his manuscript narrative, states that Arnold, after he had relieved the Fort, "directly marched his troops to Stillwater." Sammons was in this army. He had been off on duty as a scout in the early days of August.
13. The Mohawk Valley at Saratoga
The "History of the Civil War in America, by an Officer in the British Army," Captain Hall, London, 1780, says p. 397: "The retreat of Colonel St. Leger inspired the enemy with fresh ardor, and as they had now no longer anything to fear on the Mohawk river, a numerous and hardy militia from that country immediately joined their army in the neighborhood of Albany, which now advanced and took post near Stillwater, where they were also joined by a body of troops under Arnold, who had, in fact, been detached to the relief of Fort Stanwix, though he was at a great distance when the finesse of the garrison succeeded in saving the place."
"Botta's History of the United States "declares specifically: The successes of the Americans under the walls of Fort Schuyler (Stanwix), besides having inspired the militia, produced also the other happy effect of enabling them, relieved from the fear of invasion in the country upon the Mohawk to unite all their forces against the army of Burgoyne." (Vol. 1, p. 465.)
In the "History of the war with America, France and Spain, by John Andrew, LL. D." (London, 1786), Vol. 2 p. 402, the case is thus stated: "The failure of the expedition against Fort Stanwix, together with the defeat of Bennington, were very severe blows to the British interest in those parts. They animated the Americans to a surprising degree. They began now confidently to promise themselves that General Burgoyne himself would share the same fate as his officers."
General Burgoyne, in a letter to Lord Germaine, dated Camp, near Saratoga, August 20, 1777, says: "I am afraid the expectations of Sir J. Johnson greatly fail in the rising of the country. On this side I find daily reason to doubt the sincerity of the resolution of the professing loyalists. I have about four hundred, but not half of them armed, who may be depended upon; the rest are trimmers, merely actuated by interest. The great bulk of the country is undoubtedly with the Congress, in principle and zeal; and their measures are executed with a secrecy and dispatch that are not to be equaled."
General Burgoyne, in his Defense (pg. 114), presents this as a conclusive argument in his own behalf:
"The circumstances of the action at Bennington established a yet more melancholy conviction of the fallacy of any dependence upon supposed friends. The noble lord has said, that 'I never despaired of the campaign before the affair at Bennington; that I had no doubt of gaining Albany in as short a time as the army (in due condition of supply) could accomplish the march.' I acknowledge the truth of the assertions in their fullest extent; all my letters at the time show it. I will go further and in sense apply with the noble lord the epithet 'fatal' to the affair of Bennington. The knowledge I acquired of the professors of loyalty was 'fatal', and put an end to every expectation from enterprise, unsustained by dint of force. It would have been excess of frenzy to have trusted for sustenance to the plentiful region of Albany. Had the march thither been unopposed, the enemy, finding the British army unsupplied, would only have had to compel the Tories to drive the cattle and destroy the corn, and the capitulation of Albany instead of Saratoga must have followed. Would the Tories have risen? Why did they not rise around Albany and below when they found Mr. Gates' army increasing by separate and distinct parties from remote distances? They were better qualified by their situation to catch the favorable moment, than I was to advise it. Why did they not rise in that populous, and, as supposed, well affected district, the German flats, at the time St. Leger was before Fort Stanwix? A critical insurrection from any one point to create diversion would probably have secured the success of the campaign. But to revert to the reasons against a rapid march after the affair of Bennington. It was then also known that by the false intelligence respecting the strength of Fort Stanwix, the infamous behavior of the Indians and the want of the promised cooperation of the loyal inhabitants, St. Leger had been obliged to retreat. The first plausible motive in favor or hazardous haste, the facilitating his descent of the Mohawk, was at an end."
It is pleasant to add to this testimony the following:
Council of Safety to John Hancock, President of Congress
Kingston, August 26, 1777.
"Sir: I have the honor of transmitting to you the letters of General Schuyler and Governor Clinton, giving us the agreeable intelligence of the raising of the siege of Fort Schuyler. The gallantry of the commander of the garrison of that Fort and the distinguished bravery of General Herkimer and his militia, have already been productive of the most desirable consequences. The brave and more fortunate General Stark with his spirited countrymen hath, as you know, given the enemy a signal coup at Bennington. The joint result of these providential instances of success hath revived the drooping hopes of the desponding, and given new vigor to the firm and determined. We have therefore the pleasing expectation of compelling General Burgoyne in his turn to retire. I have the honor to be, &c.,
Pierre Van Cortlandt
14. The British Annual Register for 1777, makes the following statement of the affair, which has become the standard British history:
"St. Leger's attempt upon Fort Stanwix (now named by the Americans Fort Schuyler), was soon after its commencement favored by a success so signal as would, in other cases and a more fortunate season, have been decisive, as to the fate of a stronger and more important fortress. General Herkimer, a leading man of that country, was marching at the head of eight or nine hundred of the Tryon county militia, with a convey of provisions, to the relief of the fort. St. Leger, well aware of the danger of being attacked in his trenches, and of withstanding the whole weight of the garrison in some particular and probably weak point at the same instant, judiciously detached Sir John Johnson with some regulars, the whole or part of his own regiment and the savages, to lie in ambush in the wood and interrupt the enemy upon their march.
"It should seem by the conduct of the militia and their leader that they were not only totally ignorant of all military duties, but that they had even never heart by report of the nature of an Indian war, or of that peculiar service in the woods, to which from its nature and situation this country was at all times liable. Without examination of their ground, without a reconnoitering or flanking party, they plunged blindly into the trap that was laid fro their destruction. Being thrown into a sudden and inevitable disorder, by a near and heavy fire on almost all sides, it was completed by the Indians, who, instantly pursuing their fire, rushed in upon their broken ranks and made the most dreadful slaughter amongst them with their spears and hatchets. Notwithstanding their want of conduct the militia showed no want of courage in their deplorable situation. In the midst of such extreme danger, and so bloody an execution, rendered still more terrible by the horrid appearance and demeanor of the principal actors, they recollected themselves so far as to recover an advantageous ground, which enabled them after to maintain a sort of running fight, by which about one third of their number was preserved.
"The loss was supposed to be on their side about four hundred killed, and half that number prisoners. It was thought of the greater consequence, as almost all those who were considered as the principal leaders and instigators of rebellion in that country were now destroyed. The triumph and exultation were accordingly great, and all opposition from the militia in that country was supposed to be at an end. The circumstances of old neighborhood and personal knowledge between many of the parties, in the present rage and animosity of faction, could by no means be favorable in the extension of mercy; even supposing that it might have been otherwise practiced with prudence and safety, at a time when the power of the Indians was rather prevalent, and that their rage was implacable. For according to their computation and ideas of loss the savages had purchased this victory exceeding dearly, thirty-three of their number having been slain and twenty-nine wounded, among whom were several of their principal leaders and of their most distinguished and favorite warriors. The loss accordingly rendered them so discontented, intractable and ferocious that the service was greatly affected by their ill disposition. The unhappy prisoners were, however, its first objects, most of whom they inhumanly butchered in cold blood. The New Yorkers, rangers and other troops were not without loss in this action.
"On the day, and probably during the time of this engagement, the garrison having received intelligence of the approach of their friends, endeavored to make a diversion in their favor by a vigorous and well conducted sally, under the direction of Colonel Willet, their second in command. Willet conducted his business with ability and spirit. He did considerable mischief in the camp, brought off some trophies, no inconsiderable spoil, some of which consisted in articles that were greatly wanted, a few prisoners, and retired with little or no loss. He afterward undertook, in company with another officer, a much more perilous expedition. They passed by night through the besieger's works, and in contempt of the danger and cruelty of the savages, made their way for fifty miles through pathless woods and unexplored morasses, in order to raise the country and bring relief to the fort. Such an action demands the praise even of an enemy.
"Colonel St. Leger left no means untried to profit of his victory by intimidating the garrison. He sent verbal and written messages stating their hopeless situation, the utter destruction of their friends, the impossibility of their obtaining relief, as General Burgoyne, after destroying every thing in his power, was now at Albany receiving the submission of all the adjoining counties, and by prodigiously magnifying his own force. He represented that in this state of things, if through an incorrigible obstinacy they should continue hopeless and fruitless defense, they would, according to the practice of most civilized nations, be cut off from all conditions and every hop of mercy. But he was particularly direct upon the pains he had taken in softening the rage of the Indians from their late loss and obtaining from them security that in case of an immediate surrender of the fort every man of the garrison should be spared, while on the other hand they declared, with utmost bitter execrations that if they met with any further resistance they would not only massacre the garrison, but that every man, woman and child in the Mohawk country would necessarily, and however against his will, fall sacrifices to the fury of the savages. This point, he said, he pressed entirely on the score of humanity. He promised on his part, in case of an immediate surrender, every attention which a humane and generous enemy could give. The Governor, Colonel Gansevoort, behaved with great firmness. He replied that he had been entrusted with the charge of that garrison by the United States of America; that he would defend the trust committed to his care at every hazard and to the utmost extremity, and that he should not at all concern himself about an consequences that attended the discharge of his duty. It was shrewdly remarked in the fort that half the pains would not have been taken to display the force immediately without, or the success at a distance, if they bore any proportion at all to the magnitude in which they were represented.
"The British commander was much disappointed in the state of the fort. It was stronger, in better condition, and much better defended than he expected. After great labor in his approach he found his artillery deficient, being insufficient in weight to make any considerable impression. The only remedy was to bring his approaches so near that they must take effect, which he set about with the greatest diligence.
"In the meantime the Indians continued sullen and untractable. Their late losses might have been cured by certain advantages, but the misfortune was they had yet got no plunder, and their prospect of getting any seemed to grow every day fainter. It is the peculiar characteristic of that people to exhibit in certain instances degrees of courage and perseverance which shock reason and credibility, and to portray in others the greatest irresolution and timidity, with a total want of that constancy which might enable them for any length of time to struggle with difficulty.
"Whilst the commander was carrying on his operations with the utmost industry the Indians received a flying report that Arnold was coming with 1,000 men to relieve the fort. The commander endeavored to hasten them, by promising to lead them himself, to bring all his best troops into action, and by carrying their leaders out to mark a field of battle, and the flattery of consulting them upon the intended plans of operation. Whilst he was thus endeavoring to soothe the temper and to revive their flagging spirits, other scouts arrived with intelligence, probably contrived in part by themselves, which first doubled and afterward trebled the number of the enemy, with the comfortable addition that Burgoyne's army was entirely cut to pieces.
"The colonel returned to camp, and called a council of their chiefs, hoping that by the influence which Sir John Johnson and Superintendents Claus and Butler, had over them, they might still be induced to make a stand. He was disappointed. A part of the Indians decamped whilst the council was sitting and the remainder threatened peremptorily to abandon him if he did not immediately retreat.
"The retreat was of course precipitate, or it was rather, in plain terms, flight, attended with disagreeable circumstances. The tens, with most of the artillery, fell into the hands of the garrison. It appears by the Colonel's own account that he was apprehensive of the danger from the fury of his savage allies, as he could be from the resentment of his American enemies. It also appears from the same authority that the Messasagoes, a nation of savages to the West, plundered several of the boats belonging to the army. By the American accounts, which are in part confirmed by others, it is said that they robbed the officers of their baggage and of every other article to which they took any liking, and the army in general of their provisions. They also say that a few miles distance from the camp they first stripped of their arms and afterward murdered with their own bayonets, all those British, German and American soldiers, who from any inability to keep up, fear or any other cause, were separated from the main body.
"The state of the fact with respect to the intended relief of the fort is, that Arnold had advanced by the way of Half Moon up the Mohawk river with 2,000 men for that purpose; and that for the greater expedition he had quitted the main body and arrived by forced marches through the woods, with a detachment of 900 at the fort, on the twenty-fourth in the evening, two days after the siege had been raised. So that upon the whole the intractableness of the Indians, with their watchful apprehension of danger, probably saved them from a chastisement which would not have been tenderly administered.
"Nothing could have been more untoward in the present situation of affairs than the unfortunate issue of this expedition. The Americans represented this and the affair at Bennington as great and glorious victories. Nothing could excel their exultation and confidence. Gansevoort and Willet, with General Stark and Colonel Warner, who had commanded at Bennington, were ranked among those who were considered as the saviors of their country. The northern militia began now to look high and to forget all distinction between themselves and regular troops. As this confidence, opinion and pride increased, the apprehension of General Burgoyne's army of course declined, until it soon came to be talked of with indifference and contempt, and even its fortune to be publicly prognosticated."
The account in Andrew's History of the War in America (London, 1786), is a simple condensation from the Register. The Dublin History borrows the identical words.
The History of an "Officer of the Army" (London, 1780), has no new authorities and sheds no different light.
The "Impartial History of the Civil War" (London, 1780), treats the affair in the same spirit.
William Gordon, D. D., in his "History of the Rise, Progress and Establishment of the Independence of the United States of America," (London, 1788), claims to have had access to the papers of Washington and other American generals, and writes with the freshness of gossip. His story of Oriskany and Fort Stanwix has this character, and he states that he had some of his facts from Reverend Samuel Kirkland. Besides the references elsewhere made, he adds only a few touches of color to this local chronicle.
15. St. Leger's Boast and Confidence.
The following extract of a letter from Lieutenant-Colonel St. Leger to Lieutenant-General Burgoyne, brought through the woods by an Indian, dated before Fort Stanwix, August 11, 1777, is copied from Almon's "American Remembrancer for 1777," p. 392:
"After combating the natural difficulties of the river St. Lawrence and the artificial ones the enemy threw in my way at Wood Creek, I invested Fort Stanwix the third instant. On the fifth I learned from discovering parties on the Mohawk river that a body of one thousand militia were on their march to raise the siege. On the confirmation of this news I moved a large body of Indians, with some troops the same night, to lay in ambuscade for them on their march. They fell into it. The completest victory was obtained; above four hundred lay dead on the field, amongst the number of whom were almost all the principal movers of rebellion in that country. There are six or seven hundred men in the fort. The militia will never rally; all that I am to apprehend, therefore, that will retard my progress in joining you, is a reinforcement of what they call their regular troops, by the way of Half Moon, up the Mohawk river. A diversion, therefore, from your army by that quarter will greatly expedite my junction with either of the grand armies."
The Remembrancer for that year gives as a letter from Sir Guy Carleton a statement "That Colonel St. Leger, finding Fort Stanwix too strongly fortified and the garrison too numerous to be taken by assault, and the Indians being alarmed by a false report of the approach of a large body of the rebel continental troops, he had given over the attempt of forcing a passage down the Mohawk river, and returned to Montreal, from whence he had proceeded to Ticonderoga, intending to join Lieutenant-General Burgoyne by that route."
16. Bennington Counted Before Oriskany In Time
Stedman's (British) History of the Revolution p. 353, says:
"The defeat of Colonels Baum, Breyman and St. Leger enervated the British cause in no ordinary degree. There were many of the inhabitants not attached to either party by principle, and who had resolved to join themselves to that which should be successful. These men, after the disasters at Bennington and Stanwix, added a sudden and powerful increase of strength to the Americans."
17. Colonel Claus' Letter to Secretary Knox at London.
In the eighth volume of the Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York, (p. 718 and following) is an official letter from colonel Daniel Claus, written from Montreal, October 16, 1777, which was brought to light after all the histories of the Battle of Oriskany, which are generally familiar, were written. It is necessary to complete the record. Colonel Claus writes:
"Sir -- I take the liberty to give you such an account of the expedition I was appointed to this campaign, as my capacity will permit me, and which, though tedious, I used all the conciseness in my power.
"On my arrival at Quebec the first of June, Sir Guy Carleton being at Montreal, my letter from Lord George Germaine was forwarded to him by Lieutenant-Governor Cramahe that day, and myself arrived there a few days after. I waited upon Sir Guy, who acknowledged the receipt of the letter, but said nothing further upon it, than addressing himself to Captain Tice, who was in England with Joseph (Brant) and there at Levy, that I had now the command of him and those Indian officers and Indians that were destined for Brigadier St. Leger's expedition. A day or two after I waited on him again for his orders and instructions, and asked what rank I was to have on the expedition. He replied on the latter, that it could not be settled here. * * * *
"Some time before our march I informed myself of Sir Guy Carleton, of the state Fort Stanwix was in; he told me that by the latest accounts from Colonel Butler, there were sixty men in a picketed place. Determined to be sure, I dispatched one John Hare, and active Indian Officer, with the Mohawk chief John Odiseruney, to collect a small party of Indians at Swegachy and reconnoiter Fort Stanwix, as well as possible and bring off some prisoners if they could.
"On the twenty-third of June, I set out from LaChine near Montreal. The Brigadier who was getting the artillery boats ready to take in two sixes, two threes, and four Cohorus (being our artillery for the expedition), was to follow the day after; and proceeded for an island destined for our rendezvous, in the entrance of Lake Ontario, called Buck island, in company with Sir John Johnson and his regiment. In my way thither I collected a body of a hundred and fifty Misisagey and Six Nation Indians. All the Indians of the inhabited part of Canada whom I had under my care for fifteen years, and was best acquainted with, were destined for General Burgoyne's army. The Misisagey and Six Nations, the Brigadier intended should accompany him in an alert to Fort Stanwix, by a short cut through the woods, from a place called Salmon Creek on Lake Ontario, about twenty miles from Oswego, in order to surprise the garrison and take it with small arms.
"Between sixty and seventy leagues from Montreal my reconnoitering party returned and met me, with five prisoners (one lieutenant) and four scalps, having defeated a working party of sixteen rebels as they were cutting sods toward repairing and finishing the old fort, which is a regular square, and garrisoned by upwards of six hundred men, the repairs far advanced and the rebels expecting us, and were acquainted with out strength and route. I immediately forwarded the prisoners to the Brigadier who was about fifteen leagues in our rear. On his arrival within a few leagues of Buck Island he sent for me, and, talking over the intelligence the rebel prisoners gave, he owned that if they intended to defend themselves in that fort our artillery was not sufficient to take it. However, he said, he has determined to get the truth of these fellows. I told him that having examined them separately they agreed in their story. And here the Brigadier had still an opportunity and time of sending for a better train of artillery and wait for the junction of the Chaseurs, which must have secured us success, as every one will allow. However, he was still full of his alert, making little of the prisoner's intelligence.
"On his arrival at Buck Island the eighth of July, he put me in orders as superintendent of the expedition and empowered me to act for the best of my judgment for His Majesty's service, in the management of the Indians on the expedition, as well as what regarded their equipment, presents, etc., he being an entire stranger thereto. There was then a vessel at the Island which had some Indian goods on board, which Colonel Butler had procured for the expedition, but upon examination I found that almost every one of the above articles I demanded at Montreal were deficient and a mere impossibility to procure them at Buck Island, had I not luckily provided some of those articles before I left Montreal at my own risk, and with difficulty Brigadier St. Leger found out thirty stand of arms in the artillery stores at Swegachy, and I added all my eloquence to satisfy the Indians about the rest.
"The Brigadier set out from the Island upon his alert the nineteenth of July, I having been ordered to proceed to Oswego with Sir John Johnson's regiment and a company of Chasseurs lately arrived, there to convene and prepare the Indians to join the Brigadier at Fort Stanwix. On my arrival at Oswego, twenty-third July, I found Joseph Brant there, who acquainted me that his party, consisting of about three hundred Indians, would be in that day, and having been more than two months upon service, were destitute of necessaries, ammunition and some arms. Joseph at the same time complaining of having been very scantily supplied by Colonel Butler with ammunition when at Niagara in the spring, although he acquainted Colonel Butler of his being threatened with a visit from the rebel, General Herkimer, of Tryon county, and actually was afterward visited by him with three hundred men with him, and five hundred at some distance; when Joseph had not two hundred Indians together, but, resolutely declaring to the rebel General that he was determined to act against them for the King, he obliged them to retreat with mere menaces, not having twenty pounds of powder among his party.
"The twenty-fourth of July I received an express from Brigadier St. Leger, at Salmon Creek, about twenty miles from Oswego, to repair thither with what arms and vermilion I had, and that he wished I would come prepared for a march through the woods. As to arms and vermilion I had none, but prepared myself to go upon the march, and was ready to set off when Joseph came into my tent and told me that as no person was on the spot to take care of the number of Indians with him, he apprehended in case I should leave them they would become disgusted, and disperse, which might prevent the rest of the Six Nations to assemble, and be hurtful to the expedition, and begged, I would first represent these circumstances to the Brigadier by letter. Brigadier St. Leger mentioned indeed, my going was chiefly intended to quiet the Indians with him, who were very drunk and riotous, and Captain Tice, who was the messenger, informed me that the Brigadier ordered the Indians a quart of rum apiece, which made them all beastly drunk, and in which case it is not in the power of man to quiet them. Accordingly, I mentioned to the Brigadier by letter the consequences that might affect his Majesty's Indian interest in case I was to leave so large a number of Indians that were come already and still expected. Upon which representation, and finding the Indians disapproved of the plan, and were unwilling to proceed, the Brigadier came away from Salmon Creek and arrived the next day at Oswego, with the companies of the eighth and thirty-fourth regiments and about two hundred and fifty Indians.
"Having equipped Joseph's party with what necessaries and ammunition I had, I appointed the rest of the Six Nations to assemble at the Three Rivers, a convenient place of rendezvous, and in the way to Fort Stanwix, and desired Colonel Butler to follow me with the Indians he brought with him from Niagara, and equip them all at Three Rivers.
"The twenty-sixth of July left Oswego, and second of August arrived with the Brigadier and the greatest part of the troops before Fort Stanwix, which was invested the same evening. The enemy having stopped up a narrow river, called Wood Creek, by cutting of trees across it for about twenty miles, along which our artillery, provisions and baggage were to pass, which passage to cut open required a number of men, as well as cutting a road through the woods for twenty-five miles, to bring up the artillery, stores, etc., that were immediately wanted, which weakened our small army greatly.
"The third, fourth and fifth the Indians surrounded the fort and fired from behind logs and rising grounds, at the garrison, wherever they had an object, which prevented them from working at the fortifications in the day. The fifth, in the afternoon, accounts were brought by Indians, sent by Joseph's sister from Canajoharie (Indian Castle) that a body of rebels were on their march and would be within ten or twelve miles of our camp by night. A detachment of about four hundred Indians was ordered to reconnoiter the enemy. Sir John Johnson asked leave to join his company of light infantry and head the whole, which was granted. Colonel Butler and other Indian officers were ordered with the Indians.
"The rebels having in imperfect account of the number of Indians that joined us (being upward of eight hundred), not thinking them by one-fourth as many, and being sure as to our strength and artillery (which we learned by prisoners), that they knew if from their emissaries before we left Canada. They, therefore, on the sixth, marched on, to the number of upwards of eight hundred, with security and carelessness.
"When within six miles of the Fort they were waylaid by our party, surprised, briskly attacked, and after a little resistance, repulsed and defeated; leaving upwards of five hundred killed on the spot, among which were their principal officers and ringleaders; their general was shot through the knee, and a few days afterward died of an amputation.
"We lost Captains Hare and Wilson of the Indians, Lieutenant McDonald of Sir John's regiment, two or three privates and thirty-two Indians, among which were several Seneka chiefs killed. "Captain Watts, Lieutenant Singleton of Sir John's regiment, and thirty-three Indians wounded.
"During the action when the garrison found the Indians' camp (who went out against their reinforcement) empty, they boldly sallied out with three hundred man, and two field pieces, and took away the Indians' pack, with their clothes, wampum and silver work, "they having gone in their shirts, as naked to action;" and when they found a party advancing from our camp, they returned with their spoil, taking with them Lieutenant Singleton and a private of Sir John's regiment, who lay wounded in the Indian camp.
"The disappointment was rather greater to the Indians than their loss, for they had nothing to cover themselves at night, or against the weather, and nothing in our camp to supply them till I got to Oswego.
"After this defeat and having got part of our artillery up, some cohorn shells were thrown into the Fort, and a few shots fired. A flag then was sent with an account of the disaster of their intended relief, and the garrison was summoned to surrender prisoners of war, to be marched down the country, leaving baggage, &c., behind, to satisfy the Indians for their losses.
"The rebels knowing their strength in garrison, as well as fortification, and the insufficiency of our field pieces to hurt them, and apprehensive of being massacred by the Indians, for the losses sustained in the action; they rejected the summons and said they were determined to hold out to the extremity.
"The siege then was carried on with as much vigor as possible for nineteen days, but to no purpose. Sire John Johnson proposed to follow the blow given to the reinforcements (who were chiefly Mohawk river people), to march down the country with about two hundred men, and I intended joining him with a sufficient body of Indians but the Brigadier said he could not spare the men, and disapproved of it. The inhabitants in general were ready (as we afterward learned) to submit and come in. A flag then was sent to invite the inhabitants to submit and be forgiven, and assurance given to prevent the Indians from being outrageous; but the commanding officer of the German Flats, hearing of it, seize the flag, consisting of Ensign Butler of the Eighth Regiment, ten soldiers and three Indians, and took them up as spies. A few days after, General Arnold, coming with some cannon and a reinforcement, made the inhabitants return to their obedience. The Indians, finding that our besieging the fort was of no effect, our troops but few, a reinforcement, was reported, of fifteen hundred or two thousand men with field pieces by the way, began to be dispirited and fell off by degrees. The chiefs advised the Brigadier to retreat to Oswego and get better artillery from Niagara, and more men, and so return and renew the siege; to which the Brigadier agreed, and accordingly retreated on the twenty-second of August. On our arrival at Oswego the twenty-sixth and examining into the state of the troops' necessaries, the men were without shoes and other things which only could be got at Montreal, the Brigadier at the same time having received a letter from General Burgoyne to join him, either by a march through the woods back of Tryon county (which was impracticable), or the way he came. He adopted the latter on account of procuring necessaries for the men. The Indians were as much as possible reconciled to this resolution, with a promise that they should be convened as soon as Colonel Butler could return from Montreal with some necessaries for them. There being Indian traders at Oswego, I saw myself under a necessity to clothe those Indians that lost their packs by the rebels at Fort Stanwix, which made them return home contented.
"This has an expedition miscarried merely for want of timely and goo d intelligence. For it is impossible to believe that had the Brigadier St. Leger known the real state of the fort and garrison of Fort Stanwix, he could possibly have proceeded from Montreal without a sufficient train of artillery and his full complement of troops. And yet by what I find, very large sums have been expended on account of Government at Niagara upon the Indians these two years past, and they at the same time kept inactive; whereas, had these presents been properly applied, the Six Nations might not only prevent Fort Stanwix from being reestablished, but even let not a rebel come near it or keep it up; it being almost in the heart of their country, and they with reluctance saw the Crown erect a fort there last war. All the good done by the expedition was, the ringleaders and principal men of the rebels of Tryon county were put out of the way; but had we succeeded, it must be of vast good effect to the Northern operations, and its miscarrying, I apprehend, to my deep concern, to be the reverse."
18. Roster of Oriskany
For several weeks in June and July, 1877, the Utica Herald appealed to the descendants of those engaged in the battle, and to all others, for names to make up a Roster of Oriskany, to preserve the names of all persons who took part in that important action. As the sum of its efforts, from all sources, that journal gathered the following list: (Key: K=Killed; W=Wounded; P=Taken Prisoner.
This list is by no means comprehensive and it covers only about 1/4 of the roster.
Note in margin, handwritten: "The killed in the field (Oriskany) were 144: The wounded were numerous and very few were prisoners. Mr. Paris (Isaac Paris's son) a prisoner was killed in the British Camp to appease the woman of William Johnson, an Indian."
Officers at Fort Stanwix
THE HERKIMER MONUMENT
Letter of Dr. Henry A. Homes, State Librarian, on the Subject
State Library, Albany, June 18, 1879.
Hon. Horatio Seymour:
Dear Sir: In perusing the accounts of the proceedings of the Oriskany centennial celebration of 1877, I have found no allusion to the action of the State just half a century before, in regard to erecting a monument to General Herkimer. Recalling the fervor with which you have appealed in behalf of such a monument, I felt sure that you would be gratified to be reminded that your enthusiasm had been sustained by no less an example than that of so eminent a predecessor in office as Governor DeWitt Clinton.
Governor Clinton, in his annual message in 1827 to the Legislature,the semi-centennial year of the battle of Oriskany, recalls to the minds of the members that the year was "the 50th anniversary of our national existence," and after speaking of "our debt to the surviving worthies of the revolution," he adds:
"It is suitable to the occasion to solicit your attention to the following resolve of Congress, passed on the 4th of October, 1777:
'Resolved, That the governor and council of new York be desired to erect a monument at continental expense,of the value of five hundred dollars, to the memory of the late Brigadier Herkimer, who commanded the militia of Tryon county in the State of New York, and was killed fighting gallantly in defense of the liberty of these States.'
"At the most critical period of the Revolutionary war, when the State was nearly surrounded with hostile forces,and when destroying armies were penetrating it in various directions, the gallant Herkimer fell on the field of battle, at the head of his patriotic neighbors. This exhibition of heroic virtue attracted the distinguished notice of Congress, but the situation of the times presented obstacles to an immediate compliance with their resolve. As there can be no reason for further delay, I hop that this subject will occupy your early attention."
This recommendation was speedily referred to a select committee of five. A bill was reported, discussed in committee of the whole, and there the title of the bill was changed from " An act of honor to the memory of General Herkimer," to that of "An act to provide for the erection of a monument in honor of General Nicholas Herkimer." It was finally engrossed, read a third time, and passed the same day, April 16, and sent to the Senate for concurrence. On the same day it was read in the Senate and ordered to a second reading. Both bodies adjourned the next day, April 17, and the bill failed to become a law. (N. Y. Assem. Journal, 1827, pp. 43, 45, 1036, 1141, 1142. Senate Journal, 1827, p. 620.)
Governor Clinton, faithful to his purpose, in his next and last annual message, in 1828, repeats his recommendation regarding the monument in the following language:
"At the last meeting of the Legislature, I recommend erection of a monument in honor of General Herkimer, and to which I beg leave to refer you. If you concur with me in the propriety and policy of attending to this notice of an eminent patriot of the Revolution, permit me to advocate with it, General Woodhull, another distinguished hero who fell, one of the first victims of the Revolutionary war, in defense of his country, on Long Island, in August, 1776."
On the next day this portion of the message was referred to a select committee. This committee, by its chairman, Abijah Mann, Jr., reported at length, on March 28. This report, after narrating the death of Woodhull on Long Island, recounts the bravery of General Herkimer and his success in defeating the designs of the enemy at Oriskany, and concludes thus: "In consideration of the distinguished services rendered to this State by Generals Herkimer and Woodhull during the American Revolution, the committee, in pursuance of the recommendation of his excellency the late governor, respectfully ask leave to introduce a bill to provide for the erection of suitable monuments to their memories, as a perpetual testimony of the estimation of those services by the people of this State. Ordered, that leave be given to bring in such a bill." It was ordered,and immediately brought in, read for the first time, read by unanimous consent immediately for the second time,and committed to a committee of the whole house. On the 5th of April, this bill with a dozen others was reported by a committee as one of "such public character as ought to be acted upon at the present session." The Assembly adjourned nearly a month later, but no farther action on the subject is recorded in its journal, or in that of the Senate for the same year. (Assembly Journal 1828, pp. 20, 23, 908, 910.)
In the six sections of the bill it was provided as follows: 1. Erection of monuments at or near the places of interment. 2. Names the three commissioners to erect the monument in the town of Danube. 3. Empowers them to determine the form, size and inscription of the monuments. 4. A sum (left blank) declared to be appropriated for the monument. 6. Names commissioners of Suffolk county to erect monument there. 6. Commissioners for both monuments may procure the marble from Sing Sing. (Legislative Document, folio of 1828.)
The subject of an appropriation for either of these monuments was not resumed in the following year, 1829. It will be remarked that Governor Clinton's recommendation of these monuments was one of his latest official acts, and that before the presentation of the report of the committee he was in his grave.
I am, dear sir, respectfully your most obedient servant,
Henry A. Homes, State Librarian.
Letter From John Hancock
Your Town, Penn., Oct 5, 1777.
Gentlemen: I have the honor to transmit to you the enclosed resolves of Congress, from which you will perceive it is their desire that a monument should be erected to the memory of the late Brigadier General Harkemer, and that they request you will take proper measure of carrying the resolve into execution. They have for this purpose voted five hundred dollars.
Every mark of distinction shown to the memory of such illustrious men as offer up their lives for the liberty and happiness of the country, reflects real honor on those who pay the grateful tribute; and by holding up to others the prospects of fame and immortality, will animate them to tread in the same path.
I have the honor to be, gentlemen,
Your most obedient and very humble servant,
John Hancock, President.
Address: "His Excellency G. Clinton, Esq., Governor and the Honorable Council of the State of New York."
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