History From America's Most Famous Valleys
The Orderly Book of Sir John Johnson
During the Oriskany Campaign
Annotated by Wm. L. Stone
With an Historical Introduction illustrating the Life of Johnson by J. Watts De Peyster, and Some Tracings from the Foot-Prints of the Tories, or Loyalists in America by T. R. Myers.
Joel Munsell, 1882
Oriskany from A British Standpoint.
Before going to press, I submitted my manuscript to a friend for whose judgment I have a profound respect, with the request that he would make any suggestions which might occur to him. He promptly responded by giving me several valuable hints, and among others the following: "In your Introduction you should give the other side of the story, as well as Willett's account of how he came by the Orderly Book. Johnson was with his regiment fighting when the sortie was made. Willett's story was not true. However, print it as you propose, but also print a part of the note of the editor of Jones's History of New York during the Revolution, which is No. LXIII. p. 701, Vol. I. Jones's text shows that Sir John suggested or rather proposed the plan to St. Leger, the result of which was the defeat of Oriskany. This fact you might also mention."
Before asking my friend's opinion, I had already endeavored (and I think successfully, see note on page 13) to reconcile the apparent discrepancy between Willett's and Jones's accounts, by showing how it might easily have happened that Sir John was not only in the attack on Herkimer, but also in the camp at the time of Willett's sortie. Nevertheless, in justice to the other side, I herewith give the note of the editor in Jones's History, above referred to, first preceding it with Jones's account of the action at Oriskany in his text.
Extract from Jones's History, p. 216, Vol. I.
"Hercheimer got intelligence of the situation of the garrison [at Fort Stanwix] and determined to raise the siege if possible, if not, at least to throw in reinforcements, with large supplies of every kind of provisions and stores. To effect this, he collected a body of about 1,000 militia, in which every person of note in the country, who were in the interest of congress, served either as officers or volunteers. When everything was in readiness, Hercheimer marched for the relief of the fort, having under his escort about 400 wagons loaded with stores and provisions of every kind. St. Leger had soon information of these proceedings; Sir John Johnson proposed meeting them in the woods, lying in ambush and taking them by surprise. This being agreed to by St. Leger, Sir John proceeded with a part of his own corps, a few Canadians, and the Indians, the distance of a few miles, and waited the coming of the enemy. Spies were sent out, who soon returned with an account of their approach, their distance, and their route. An ambush was laid, and so artfully concealed, that the first intimation the rebels had of an enemy being at hand, was a heavy fire in their rear, in their front, and upon both flanks. Numbers fell. A battle ensued in the Indian method of fighting. The rebels behaved with resolution, but were totally defeated. Several of the Indians were killed, and among them some of their Sachems. The other part of the detachment suffered little. In the action General Hercheimer and almost every leading man in the rebel interest in the county of Tryon, were killed. Not a man got into the fort, and the wagons, provisions, and stores were all either taken or destroyed."
Extract from the editor's note to the above note, LXIII, Vol I..
"St. Leger's corps passed through the Oneida Lake on the 31st of July, 1777 ; his van appeared before Fort Stanwix on the 2d of August, and the siege began on the 3d. * * *
"Nicholas Herkimer, or Herckheimer, as the name was originally spelled, was appointed brigadier of the Tryon county militia, when it was separated from that of Albany county, and formed into a brigade by itself, by the provincial convention, Sept. 5th, 1776, John Frey at same time being appointed his brigade major. An official letter of the provincial convention to the New York delegates in congress, dated Aug. 14th, 1777, written by Robert R. Livingston, says : 'We have 700 militia out in Tryon county, and the governor has also ordered 200 men to Scoary [Schoharie] where the Whigs are besieged by Tories and Indians.' The committee of Tryon county, on the 17th of July, unto the committee of safety, at Kingston. 'Fort Schuyler(1) fortifications are not yet finished, and the garrison consists of but 300 able men. General Schuyler ordered 200 men of our militia for a reinforcement, but with all trouble possible, and repeated orders, no more but about 80 men could be brought there.' In the same letter they say that the militia were in such a discouraged state that, the weak hearted (which by this time being the greatest number) are fully resolved and declare openly upon actual invasion of the enemy, to render themselves up to their protection, if the county be not in time succored with troops, and that from neglect of such succors more than half of our inhabitants are resolved not to lift up arms in defence of this country.'
"Col. Peter Gansevoort, with the 3d New York Continentals, took command in April, 1777, and began the erection of the
(1) Fort Stanwix just after it was erected was called "Fort Schuyler" for a short time. The real Fort Schuyler (old Fort Schuyler) was on the site of the present city of Utica. See preceding note to Fort Stanwix.
Fort. On the 1st of August, he received a reinforcement of about 200 men, with several bateaux loaded with provisions and ammunition, the tardy result of Schuyler's orders, which increased his force to about 700 men.
"Herkimer on the 1710 of July, had issued a proclamation calling out all the Tryon county militia from the ages of 16 to 60, but only succeeded in getting about 700 by the 5th of August, when he encamped at the confluence of the Oriskany creek with the Mohawk. He sent that night a messenger to Gansevoort asking him to make a sortie when he should appear, and to notify the arrival of his messenger by three guns in succession.
"His officers and men taunting him with cowardice for delaying to move, the next day he ordered them to march before the signal was heard; the result was the defeat described by the author Helmer, the messenger arrived at the fort at 1 p. M., at 2 Gansevoort sent out a sortie of 206 men under Marinus Willett, who ransacked and plundered the slightly guarded camp of Johnson, who was engaged in the battle about a mile from the fort, and there learning the defeat of Herkimer, retreated back to the fort with their plunder, which, in the words of Helmer, 'at a reasonable computation amounted at least to one thousand pounds,' 'not one man being killed or wounded.'
"Herkimer, desperately wounded in the leg, bore himself nobly in the action, was afterward removed to his own home in the town of Danube on the Mohawk, and died there after an amputation, on the 16th of August, 1777, and is buried in the family graveyard near the house.
"The remains of Herkimer's command retreated to old Fort Schuyler (now Utica), carrying their wounded, but without burying their dead, and made no further attempt at relieving the fort. Except the rear they fought bravely. 'We will not take upon us to tell of the behavior of the rear. So far we know they took to flight the first firing,' say the committee of German Flatts in a letter, informing the Albany committee of the battle and asking succor.
" 'Gentlemen,' their letter concludes, 'we pray you will
send us succor. By the death of most part of our committee members, the field
officers in general being wounded, every thing is out of order, the people
entirely dispirited; our county at Esopus unrepresented, that we cannot hope
to stand it any longer without your aid; we will not mention the shocking
aspect our fields do show. Faithful to our country, we remain, your sorrowful
brethren, the few members of this committee,
"PETER J. DAGGART,
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