History From America's Most Famous Valleys
STORIES OF THE REVOLUTION
With an account of the lost child of the Delaware: Wheaton and the Panther, &c.
Thanks to Willis Barshied Jr. for the donation.
Printed by Hoffman and White,
No. 71 State Street 1836.
THE ESCAPE OF COWLEY AND SAWYER.
Sethen Henry, the noted Indian named in the foregoing account, together with a brother equally murderous with himself, were ever on the alert to take captive and kill as many as possible of the whig party, not regarding women, children, nor even the aged, as the British paid the same price for scalps of every kind.
These two Indians, in company with two others, were prowling along the Delaware, knowing that Cowley and Sawyer were living some where in that region, now called Waterville. That these men were whigs was known to the tories living near them, from whom Sethen Henry and his fellows derived their information respecting where they lived.
These were times when the Tories made their calculations how to speculate and make money by the destruction of their neighbors, as much as in dealing their land, or shooting the game of the woods, by the sale of their scalps, and the plunder of their goods.
"I do not recollect," said the Judge, "in what particular manner these four Indians took Cowley and Sawyer prisoners, whether while asleep at home, or hunting in the woods, travelling together at work in the field, or the woods, but in some way were taken and secured."
They immediately set off with their victims for Fort Niagara, which was the grand resort of the Tories and Indians, and the place where Butler paid for scalps. They had travelled a week or thereabouts, so closely watching their prisoners by day and night, that as yet they had not had opportunity of speaking to each other. But on coming within the range of the Indian country on the Genesee, their captors began to relax their severity in a considerable degree, loosening them from their cords, and sending them to cut and gather wood for their night encampments.
At such opportunities they used to exchange a hasty word or two in a low voice, respecting the means of escape. It was in the fore part of summer, so that they were enabled to get roots, buds and wintergreens to eat, suffering however much from hunger. The Indians had stolen a narrow axe at the time they took these men, which makes it probable that they were at work in the woods. With this axe they used to cut their fuel, rendering it easier than to use a mere Indian hatchet.
They began also to relax a little that extreme care heretofore practiced in securing them while asleep, which was usually to lay one of them between two Indians, either tying them to their own bodies, or laying poles across them, sleeping on their ends, so that if they moved at all the Indians would awake. But now the time was becoming more and more precious, as that in a little while they would arrive among some of the tribes, from whom it would be still more difficult to get a way, or they would be sold to the British at Niagara from whose power it would be impossible to escape, till the end of the war, should they live to see that day.
According, one evening when they had stopped to encamp, and were told to gather wood as usual, they agreed that night to make the hazardous attempt; fixed upon their signal, or token, so as to act in concert. The axe before named, they contrived to lay down so near where they were to sleep as to be able to reach it if either of them should so prosper in their exertions as to want it. Observing also the exact spot where the Indians had laid their guns and hatches, which was always near their heads, they lay down to sleep, as at other times between their savage masters.
Here is a point the reader will perceive in which the human soul is wrought to its highest energies, just when the attempt was to be made, which would recover lost liberty and sweep at a stroke the enemy from being; or, to fail and sink powerless to rise no more. Under such feelings, they continued to watch the breathing of the Indians, till near the hour of midnight, when, from the deep slow pulse which coursed their veins, it was evident that the time had come; the sign or token agreed on was reciprocated, this was a strong aspiration of the breath.
Now each at the same moment began to lift his head, and gradually to rise on one side, resting on the palm of the hand. In this position they waited a moment to listen; then another effort was made to draw their feet under them, so as to he able to stand in a squating posture, from which if they could but attain, it would be easy for them to spring, or rise erect without a noise. This they were so happy as to effect without awakening the Indians, and reaching to the axe and a hatchet, each aimed a deadly blow, when two of them were no more. A second attempt to destroy the other two, but neither of their blows took a deadly effect, on account of the distance they had to reach, though both the Indians were badly wounded. In an instant Sethen Henry, the leader, was on his feet, and finding a dreadful gash on his shoulder fled from the contest; but the other was not quick enough to avoid a second blow, when he went the way of his fellows.
Cowley and Sawyer now each seized a gun, a horn of ammunition, and pouch of bullets, two hatchets, the narrow axe, and fled; making the best of their way toward the forts of Old Schoharie, where they arrived, when there was great rejoicing on their account.
"We gathered around them," said his honor Judge Hagar of Schoharie, of whom we received this account, "caressing them, feeling willing to carry them in our arms, so glad were we to see them again alive, and to think in v/hat a heroic manner they had rescued themselves, if not from being burnt alive, yet from a long imprisonment among either the Indians or the British."
Copyright © 1998, -- 2003. Berry Enterprises. All rights reserved. All items on the site are copyrighted. While we welcome you to use the information provided on this web site by copying it, or downloading it; this information is copyrighted and not to be reproduced for distribution, sale, or profit.