Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883
Volume I, Page 536
Principal Events of 1776.-The colonists had gone so far in their rebellion, and maintained their position so manfully by the close of 1775, that the far-seeing believed honorable recession was impossible, and that the struggle must now go on to the bitter end. Hence, patriotic men and women worked with a will at whatever would best promote the public interest; and, while they were thus engaged, the enemy were not idle in their efforts to rivet more firmly upon them the manacles of despotism. Lord Dunmore, already alluded to, the royal Governor of Virginia in the service of his Majesty, even went so far as to arm slaves, instigating them to imbrue their hands in the blood of their patriotic masters; and, in his zeal, on the first of January, 1776, he burnt the town of Norfolk, which act will forever execrate his memory. On the 17th of March, following, the British having been compelled to evacuate Boston, Washington entered it to the great joy of its patriotic citizens.
A fleet under Sir Peter Parker, with several thousand British and Hessian troops, arrived on the coast of America early that year. Sir Henry Clinton, assuming command after Gen. Gage evacuated Boston, intended to take possession of New York, but finding Gen. Lee there to oppose him, he sailed with the British fleet to attack Charleston, South Carolina. Lee, learning his intentions, managed to arrive there before him, and prepare the city for an attack. A fort was quickly thrown up on Sullivan's Island, of palmetto trees and sand, commanding the entrance to the Harbor; and on the 31st of May the enemy under Commodore Parker and Sir Henry Clinton, attacked it with a strong force, but were repulsed with a severe loss by the troops under Col. Moultrie, whose name it afterwards bore. The conduct of two sergeants in the fort, Jasper and McDonald, deserves particular notice.
Says the biographer of Marion: "A ball from the enemy'll ships carried away our flagstaff. Scarcely had the stars of liberty touched the sand, before Jasper flew and snatched them up and kissed them with great enthusiasm. Then having fixed them to the point of his spontoon [a spear], he leaped upon the breast-work amidst the storm and fury of the battle, and restored them to their daring station-waving his hat at the same time and huzzaing, 'God save liberty and my country forever! ' A cannon shot from one of the enemy's guns entered a port-hole and dreadfully mangled McDonald, while fighting like a hero at his gun. As he was borne off in a dying state, he said to his comrades, 'Huzza, my brave fellows! I die, but don't let the cause of liberty die with me !'" The day after the action many citizens of Charleston, of the first rank of both sexes, visited the fort, to tender in person their thanks for its gallant defense, and by it their own protection. Among them was Gov. Rutledge, distinguished for his patriotic zeal and devotion to the cause of his country. In the presence of the regiment to which Jasper belonged, he loosed his own sword and presented it to him, tendering him at the time a commission. The brave sergeant with heart-felt thanks declined accepting the latter, because he could not read. Let parents who neglect to educate their children, consider well the reason this young man gave for not accepting proffered honor. Nor was this a solitary case; hundreds of daring spirits in the course of the war were obliged to decline for the same reason the laurels their own valor had won, and see them adorn the brow of their less meritorious brethren.
A Mrs. Elliot (whose husband was colonel of artillery), on the occasion above referred to, presented the regiment with a beautiful American standard, richly embroidered by her own hands. It was delivered to Jasper, who, on receiving it, declared he never would part with it in life. He kept his promise; for, some time after, in an effort to bear off those colors in an attack on Savannah, he was mortally wounded. A short time before his death he was visited by Major Horry. He spoke with freedom of his past life and future prospects, and dwelt with evident satisfaction on the virtues of his mother. How true it is that mothers generally lay the foundation for man's future greatness-future happiness. The last moments of many a poor soldier and weather-beaten tar, have added their testimony to the fact that, lasting advice may generally be traced to the affectionate and pious mother. Jasper sent the sword presented him by Gov. Rutledge to his father, as a dying memento of his own patriotism. He also left with Major Horry his tender regards for the Jones family,* in whose fate he had, by a daring exploit, become interested; giving evidence, in death, that a just reward attends the good deeds of the virtuous.
About the time the attack was made on Fort Moultrie, Congress appointed Dr. Franklin, Samuel Chase and Charles Carroll commissioners to carry addresses into Canada, but they effected very little. Franklin said that school teachers instead of commissioners should have been sent there.
Early in July, 1776, Congress took measures to sound the colonies on the propriety of casting off all allegiance to the mother country. Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, gave notice that on a future day he would move for a declaration of Independence.
* His acquaintance with the Joneses originated
In disguise, and accompanied by his trusty friend Newton, he visited a British post at Ebenezer, where they tarried several days. Before leaving, they learned that a party of ten or twelve American prisoners were condned there in irons, to be dent back to Savannah, from whence some of them had deserted the British service. The friends begged permission to see them, among whom were a Mr. Jones, his weeping wife, and smiling boy. The two friends were much interested in the fate of the Joneses, and soon after left the camp and retired to a neighboring wood, where they pledged their lives to rescue the prisoners or perish in the attempt. They remained in the British camp until the prisoners, under a guard of a sergeant, corporal and eight soldiers set forward for Savannah. About two miles from the place of destination, Jasper and Newton secreted themselves near a spring, a little distance from thc road where the party soon after halted. Watching their opportunity, they sprang from their covert, and seizing two muskets that were resting against a tree, they shot two soldiers who were keeping guard, and reached them in time to strike down with clubbed muskets, two others who were in the act of taking up their arms. Seizing the two loaded guns they gained command of those left by five of the party near the road, and the other six surrendered themselves prisoners. The heroes liberated the captive Americans, and placing guns in their hands, after stripping the four dead soldiers, led the party in safety to the American garrison at Purysburg. When the affray at the spring commenced, Mrs. Jones fainted to the earth, byt recovering and finding her husband and boy safe, she became frantic with joy, and viewing her deliverers In the light of angels, she called down heaven's blessings upon them.
From the time of his notice the press proved a powerful auxiliary in the popular cause. Many essays and pamphlets were published and distributed on the subject, and one from the pen of Thomas Paine, entitled Common Sense, aided wonderfully in preparing public opinion to sanction the step about to be taken. * On the 1st of July it was introduced, and the three following days it was ably discussed, when the vote was taken and six states were enrolled for and six against the declaration, and one equally divided. One of the delegates from Pennsylvania, it is said, was influenced to leave the House, and thus a majority of one vote in a committee of the whole, decided the fate of the declaration. Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston were appointed to draft a Declaration of Independence. Each prepared one, but that of Jefferson was with a few slight alterations, adopted, on the fourth of July, 1776.
It is proper here to remark that the colonists generally had not anticipated or expected Independence of the British government, but sought for the possession of constitutional liberty that is, such rights as the British realm enjoyed: but the government itself took measures to precipitate the separation, by declaring the colonists out of the royal protection, and employing Hessian mercenaries to subjugate them.
While the colonists along the sea-board were beginning to realize the horrors of war, most of the frontier settlers were spectators for a while-not idle ones however. There was a restless anxiety which reached the log tenement of the most distant pioneer. Committees of vigilance, whose duty it was to gather information relative to the portending storm, and prepare for the defence of the settlements, were organized in Tryon
* Here is what Paul Allen, an excellent historian of the Revolution, said of this essay:
" Among the numerous writers on this momentous question, the most luminous. the most eloquent, and the most forcible, was Thomas Paine. His Pamphlet entitled 'COMMON SENSE,' was not only read but understood, by everybody. It contained plain and simple truths, told in a style and language, that came home to the heart of every man;. and those who regard the independence of the United States as a blessing, will never cease to cherish the remembrance of Thomas Paine. Whatever may have been his subsequent career-In whatever light his moral or religious principles may be regarded - it should never be forgotten that to him, more than to any single individual, was owing the rapid diffusion of those sentiments and feelings, which produced the act of separation from Great Britain:'-American Revolution, vol. I, p. 343.
county, as already shown, as early as 1774. A council of safety was chosen in Schoharie not long after.
At an early period of the difficulties, an effort was also made by the Schoharie settlers to get the Indians in their neighborhood to remain quiet, and let the colonies settle their own quarrel with the mother country. A meeting was held for that purpose at the old council ground in Middleburgh. Brant with several Mohawk chiefs is said to have been present, on which occasion a Mrs. Rechtmyer, living in the vicinity, acted as interpreter. The Indians agreed to remain neutral or join the Americans, says an old citizen who was present at the time; but they were too fond of war to remain inactive, while the British government was urging them at once to take up arms.
Previous to the Revolution, a small castle had been erected for the natives at Brakabeen,* on the west bank of the Schoharie, several miles above Wilder Hook, to which many of them removed from the latter place. Near it they had a burying ground.
A deputation of several from the Schoharie tribe were present in August, 1775, when commissioners met the chiefs of the Six Nations at the German Flats; and it is believed they were at Albany, where a meeting was held the same year, for the same purpose. At the time the Indians left the Mohawk valley to follow the fortunes of the Johnsons, the Schoharie Indians, who survived a pestilence, except two or three families, imitated
* Brakabeen is the German word for rushes, and obtained from the unusual quantity of that plant found along the banks of the river at that place.
A castle or fort was erected by Sir WIlliam Johnson in Schoharie, as I learned from a post-script to a long letter from him to the Lords of Trade on Indian affairs, dated at Fort Johnson, May 28, 1756, which Is as follows: Forts are now building in the Seneca's country, at Onondaga, Oneida and Schoharie, etc." I have alluded to this matter on page 230, and here introduce it to show the character of those forts. Whether the Schoharie fort was at Breakabeen or Wilder Hook Is uncertain, but I have supposed It at the latter place, and their exodus from it at a later period. The forts were to be constructed agreeable to a memorandum on the back of Johnson's letter; 100 feet square, the stockades pine or oak 15 feet long, 3 feet of which at least to be sunk In the ground well pounded and rammed, and ye 2 touching sides square so as to lay close. Loop holes to be made 4 feet distance; 2 block houses 20 feet square below and above, to project H foot over ye beams, well roofed and shingled and a good sentry-box on the top of each: a good gate of 3 inch oak plank and iron hinges, and a small gate of oak plank of same thickness."-Brod. Papers, v. 7, p. 91, and Doc. His., vol. 2.
their example, leaving the council grounds and graves of their fathers forever.
Brown says, that while the Indians were assembled to treat with the commissioners of the Indian department, a contagious disease-which he calls yellow fever-broke out among them, which carried them off in great numbers. That the survivors superstitiously supposed the Great Spirit was angry with them for not serving their king, or for hesitating about entering his service; and that consequently they joined the royalists and went to Canada.
Warree, an old Cherokee squaw, said to have been 105 years old, usually called the mother of the Schoharies, who was living at Brakabeen at the beginning of hostilities, took the prevailing epidemic in 1775, and died with it. This good old squaw who was familiarly called Granny Warree, was the second wife of Schenevas, a Schoharie chief, after whom Schenevas creek in Otsego county, was called. * For several years before her death, she used to walk with two canes, while her hair-unconfined and white as the Alpine snow-floated loosely in the breeze. When she felt the prevailing malady stealing upon her, and witnessed
*Brown's pamphlet originates the name of this stream from the following circumstance: Two Indians, Schenevas and son, were there in the winter on a hunt; a deep snow fell and they concluded to return home. After traveling some distance, they kindled a fire and tarried over night, The following morning they set forward on their journey, but the father became fatigued, and finally returned to the place from whence they had first started. The son, discovering his father had taken the back track, returned also, and found him seated by a fire which he had kindled, The son killed his father with a tomahawk, buried him in the snow and returned to Schoharie, since which time this stream has been called Schenevas creek.
At a personal interview, Judge Brown related the following tradition, which he believed true: A Schoharie chief named Schenevas, whom I suppose to have been the one killed at the Schenevas creek, was living in the lower part of Schoharie, His mother, an aged widow, was living with him. She was a quarrelsome old squaw -- was very fretful, and often wished herself dead when in a fit of ill humor. Her son, getting out of patience with her, went to Lambert Sternbergh and borrowed a shovel, with which he dug a grave in Sternbergh's orchard. He then conducted his mother to it. You have often wished yourself dead, said he; I have prepared your grave-you must die. When she saw the open grave, and realized that she had been taken at her word, she was terrified and began to cry. The savage son told her she must not be a baby, that she was going to the Great Spirit who did not like babies, He then forced her into the grave, made her lie down, and buried her alive. She struggled hard as the earth covered her, but. regardless of her entreaties, he stamped down the earth upon her and closed up the grave. We could wish for poor human nature that those parental murders were mere fiction; but we have too much reason to believe them true; indeed, history furnishes us with abundant evidence of inhuman atrocities in savage life, The presumption is, that he sank a tomahawk into her brain, and buried her in her death struggle.
its fatal effects upon many of her tribe, believing her days were numbered, she desired to be carried to the spot where her husband had died. She was universally beloved by the whole tribe; indeed, by all the white citizens who knew her, and her request, although it subjected them to great inconvenience, was readily complied with. She survived the journey but a day and two nights, and "was gathered to her fathers, to enter new hunting grounds." She was buried by her faithful warriors who had carried her the whole distance--fifteen or twenty miles-beside her departed husband, near Collier's.
It is a remarkable fact, that while very many of the Schoharie Indians died of this contagious disease, not a single white citizen took it.
Who the first chosen council of safety were in Schoharie, I am unable to say. Johannes Ball, a thorough going Whig, was chairman of the committee from its organization to the end of the war. It consisted generally of six members, and underwent some changes to meet the exigencies of the times. The following persons it is believed were members in the course of the war: Joseph Borst, Joseph Becker,* Peter Becker, Col. Peter Vrooman, who is said to have done most of the writing for the board, Lieut.-Col. Peter Zielie, Peter Swart, William Zimmer of Brakabeen, William Dietz, Samuel Vrooman, Nicholas Sternbergh, Adam Vrooman, George Warner, of Cobelskill, and Jacob Zimmer of Foxes creek.
Mr. Ball, chairman of the Schoharie committee, had two sons, Peter and Mattice-both of whom I visited in 1837, in the town of Sharon-who, with their father warmly espoused their country's cause; while another son and his brother, Capt. Jacob Ball-a leader among the tories at Beaverdam ; and John Peter Ball, a relative, as warmly advocated that of the oppressor.
On the 14th of June, 1776, I find by the Albany records, that Schoharie was represented in the" general committee chamber," by chairman Ball and Peter Becker, of the Schoharie council of safety. At a meeting of the New York State Committee of Safety, convened at Fishkill, October 9, 1776, the following resolution was adopted:
"Resolved, That the persons hereafter mentioned, be appointed
*This was a strong name In the Schoharie settlements at that period. They were mostly of German origin, but it Is claimed that some families were Low Dutch.
to purchase at the cheapest rate, in their several counties, all the coarse woollen cloth, linsey woolsey, blankets, woollen hose, mittens, coarse linen, felt hats, and shoes fitting for soldiers; and that they have the linen made up into shirts." The committee named were: "Capt. John A. Fonda, of the manor of Livingston; Peter Van Ness, of Claverack; Barent Van Beuren, of Kinderhook; Isaac V. Arnum, of Albany; Corso Cuyler, of Schenectada; James McGee and Henry Quackenboss, of the manor of Rantselear; Anthony Van Bergen, of Cocsakie; Henry Oothout, of Katskill; and Johannes Ball, of Schoharie; and that the sum of 100 pounds be advanced "to each of them for purchasing the above articles."
The following oath of allegiance was found among the papers of the late Chairman Ball :
" You shall swear by the holy evangelist of the Almighty God, to be a true subject to our continental resolve and Provincial Congress and committees, in this difficulty existing between Great Britain and America, and to answer upon such questions as you shall be examined in, so help you God.
"Derrick Laraway appeared and swore the above mentioned, before the chairman and committee, at Schoharie, and signed the association, on the 30th day of June, in the year 1776."
The following papers are copied from a record made by Judge Peter Swart some years before his death. They were obtained through the politeness of the late Gen. Jacob Hager, and although they exhibit personal services, as they will throw some light on Schoharie affairs in the Revolution, I give them an insertion :
"Names of the persons that made resistance in 1777, against McDonald and his party.
The Hager Family* Peter Zielie, Jr., Storm Becker, jr., Peter
Vrooman (Col), Thomas Eckerson, John H. Becker, Jonas Vrooman, Thomas Eckerson
Jr. (Maj.) , John I. Becker,
Peter Swart (afterwards judge), David Becker, George Richtmyer, Albertus Becker,
Peter A. Vrooman, Cornelius Van Dyck, Peter Zielie (Lt.Col.)
* It is a fact worthy of note that, while members of almost every family of distinction in the Schoharie settlements were found in hostile array, as father against son, brother against brother, etc., all the members of the Hager family at once united with those who were unfurling the stars and stripes of freedom. From the number of Beckers on this list, we may reasonably suppose that few of that name were tories.
Peter Powlus Swart, Abraham Becker, John A. Becker, Storm A. Becker, John Van Dyck,
Tunis Eckerson, Peter Van Slyck, Cornelius Eckerson, Martinus Zielie, Hendrick Becker, Peter Becker, John S. Becker, Christian Richtmyer.
The preceding memorandum embraces only the names of individuals in Middleburgh and Fulton. The party named assembled at Middleburgh, and began fortifying the stone house of John Becker, afterwards picketed in and occupied as the middle fort. The record of Swart thus continues:
"I was enrolled in the militia at sixteen years of age; [the lawful age for enrolling at that period] served as a private six months; then I was appointed a corporal-served in that capacity about one year; then I was appointed sergeant in Capt. Hager's company; 1778, I was appointed ensign in said company, in the room of John L. Lawyer; 1786, I was promoted. to first major of the regiment; 1798, I was promoted to lieutenant-colonel com't.; 1784 I was appointed justice of the peace without my knowledge; 1796 I was appointed one of the judges of the county, which office I have resigned 1818; 1798 I was elected. a member of assembly; the next election I was solicited to stand again as a candidate, which I utterly refused; 1806 I was elected a member of Congress. I was afterwards again requested. to stand as a candidate for Congress, which I refused; when John Gebhard, Judge Shepard, and Boyd were candidates for Congress. Gebhard and Shepard met with their friends at the Court House for one of them to give way; no arrangement could be made; they both signed a written declaration to give way in case I would accept a nomination, which I also refused. 1816 I was elected a senator. At the expiration of my time I was again requested to stand a candidate for the senate, which I also refused. I never craved or requested an office.
" I was one of the first that signed the compact and association. 1776 I turned out to Stone Arabia to check the progress of the enemy and tories. In the fall of the same year, turned out to Albany, from thence to Fort Edward, from thence to Johnstown, to check the enemy In 1777, in the spring, I turned out to Harpersfield, from thence to the Delaware to take up disaffected, from there home. Three days home, I went down the Hellebergh to take tories; after we had together about twenty-five of them, went to Albany and delivered them in jail. A few days afterwards went to Harpersfield; from thence to Charlotte river to take McDonald, and send him to jail. In August, 1777, was one of the thirty-two that made a stand to oppose McDonald and his party. I was one of the two that risked our lives to crowd through the tories' guns to go to Albany for assistance; was taken prisoner by the Indians and tories; the same evening I made my escape. * I was one of the six councillors that went from the stone house across Schoharie creek into the woods in a cave, to consult what measures to adopt-secresy at that time was the best policy. + Did not McDonald and his party come down as far as my house, and there encamp till the next day, and destroy everything? I had left home. The same day McDonald and his party were defeated and fled into the woods, and went off to Canada, and about twenty-six from Brakabeen went with him. What would have been the result if our small party had made no resistance, and had tamely submitted? McDonald would have marched through Schoharie, and in all probability reached Albany. What was the consequence as far as he came down? Was not the farm of Adam Crysler confiscated? Also the farm of Adam Bouck and brothers? Also the farm of Frederick Bouck? Also the farm of Bastian Becker? Also the farm of John Brown? Also the farm of Hendrick Mattice? Also the farm of Nicholas Mattice, and a number of others that were indicted? And a number more that had joined McDonald and fired on our men."
Peter and Mattice Ball, as their father was chairman of committee, were subjected to much arduous duty, and consequently were often pressed into unexpected service. Peter Ball related to the author the following melancholy incident. He had been sent to Ticonderoga with a sleigh load of stores for the army, during the winter preceding Burgoyne's campaign. While returning, in company with other sleighs which had been there
* Swart and his neighbor, Ephraim Vrooman, were sent to Albany for aid by Col. Vrooman, and started on foot, supposed the day before Cot. Harper did, and arrIved there almost as soon. They were detained on their way by coming unexpectedly upon a party of armed royalists; but finally escaped from them and pursued their journey.
+ The stone house to which he alludes, was that of John Becker, afterwards fortified as the middle fort. The cave, or place of concealment, formerly called "the committee hole," was on the opposite side of the river from Middleburgh, in a ravine between the mountains.
for the same purpose, the horses attached to one of them, which was driven by a boy and contained six soldiers, took fright at the sound of a drum in one of the sleighs. They were driving upon ice at the time on the Hudson, near Stillwater. When the horses started, one, of the men took the reins from the boy, who jumped out and escaped; but the soldiers and horses broke through the ice and were all drowned. Ball assisted in recovering the bodies of the soldiers, and conveyed them to Albany in his sleigh.
Once he carried a load of powder in a wagon to Lake George; three other loads went at the same time, and all were guarded by military from Albany. On two other occasions he was sent to Fort Ed ward with flour from Schoharie, and was pressed to take loads from there to Lake George. On those occasions he had to lie out nights, and suffered from cold.
Chairman Ball resided about half a mile north of the stone church in Schoharie, known, when fortified in the Revolution, as the Lower Fort. His son, Wilhelmus Ball, resided on the same ground in 1845. Peter Ball playfully remarked to the author, that his father had nine children by his first wife, and only ten by his second.
Several anecdotes of interest are told of Chairman Ball. His neighbor, George Mann, who was a Captain of militia, kept a public house where Mrs. Col. Peter Dietz erected a brick house at the forks of the Albany and valley roads, and warmly advocated royalty. His house was made the rallying point for tories and Indians in the year 1776 and early part of 1777, to consider the past and plan future operations. The individuals of this stamp who usually met t,here, neither liked Johannes Ball nor his politics. It was therefore thought best to get him out of the way if possible: indeed, it was 'afterwards asserted and confidently believed, that five hundred guineas were offered by an agent of the king for his destruction. David Ogeyonda, a subtle Schoharie warrior, who had a hut on the lands of Adam Vrooman, and who had been for some time active for the tories, doing the duties of a runner, spy, etc., was to be the instrument of his death. Ball was to be invited to the house of Mann under the pretence of having important business to transact with him, or some one else, when David was to provoke him to a quarrel, and thus have a plausible pretext to kill him. Ball went to the house of Mann at the appointed time, taking the precaution to go armed with a brace, of loaded pistols. He found that the business was of little importance, but that the Indian, David, was determined to quarrel with him. As the savage not unfrequently seized the handle of a long knife worn in his girdle, he suspected his motive and made good his escape; keeping a chair with one hand between his enemy and himself until he reached the door, while the other hand rested upon a pistol. This transaction took place but a short time previous to the death of this Indian, as will appear hereafter.
It had been the usual custom for ministers of the gospel, to remember the king in their prayers on the Sabbath, previous to the commencement of difficulties. One Sunday, as chairman Ball was leaving the stone church, just before the outbreak of hostilities, when the excitement of stifled feeling was scarcely controlled, he said to one of his Whig neighbors, who was 'Standing so near old domine Schuyler that the latter could hear the remark, "the domine does not dare to pray for King George any more, and for Congress he will not pray." Schuyler usually preached in Low Dutch at Middleburgh, and in German at Schoharie.
Col. Peter Vrooman, one of the Schoharie committee, was a major of militia before the Revolution. He was captain in the French war, and assisted in erecting fortifications at Oswego. If not as energetic as some officers, he was far from being pusillanimous as represented in the Annals of Tryon County or Stone's Life of Brant. The old soldiers who served under him, represented him as having been a bold and determined man, and his conduct on several occasions during the war, gave good evidence of that fact. He was very much respected in the county, and is said to have been nineteen years a member of either the senate or assembly of New York. An attempt was made to take him prisoner during the war, for a liberal reward. A meeting of the council of safety was to take place at his house, and supposing he would remain at home, several of the enemy had secreted themselves, intending to secure his person when the rest of the committee retired. The snow was deep and the enemy expected an easy conquest; but it became necessary for him to leave home with his guests, and the intentions of the foe were thwarted.
In 1776, a plan was devised by Governor Tryon, aided by the Mayor of New York, to seize the person of Gen. Washington, some of whose guard were in the plot: but the design of the enemy was seasonably discovered, and those who were conniving with the enemy, executed.--Bancroft's Washington.
As mentioned in my Trappers of New York, an unwise measure adopted early in our struggle for liberty, was that of fortifyifig Summer-house Point; it being supposed that a threatened enemy from the north, would be likely to approach the settlements by the Sacondaga. Part of a regiment of continental troops under Col. Nicholson was stationed there much of the summer of 1776. An intrenchment six feet wide and several feet deep was cut across the easterly end of the Point, while Sir William Johnson's cottage in green livery, assumed a warlike aspect. The Point as a military post was abandoned at the end of the summer.
Just before Summer-house Point was garrisoned, a scout of several meri was sent from Johnstown to l:econnoitre in its. vicinity. From the point they crossed the marsh to the bank of the Sacondaga, but on their return they found their boat on the opposite side of the Kenneyetto, and in attempting to recover it, Willie Boiles, a continental soldier was drowned. His body was recovered and buried on the westerly side of the Point, as many a poor hero was buried, without a stone to. mark his resting place.-Jacob Shew.
In the fall of 1776, Congress sent Dr. Franklin, Silas Dean and Arthur Lee as commissioners to the court of France for aid: and also resolved to build a navy.
The year 1776 closed without anything remarkable occurring to disturb, unusually, the peace of the frontier settlements. After the Declaration of Independence, events transpired in other places, involving the safety of the republic. In August, the whole of Long Island fell into the hands of the enemy, and in September, the city of New York followed the same fate. *
*The masterly retreat of Gen. Washington with his army across the East river from Brooklyn to New York, Is thus related by Major, afterwards Col. Benjamin Tallmadge, In his military journal, which was kindly loaned the author in 1844, by his son.in.law, Judge Cushmau, ant eminent jurist, then of Troy, N. Y: "In the face of many difficulties, the Commander-in.chief so arranged his business, that on the evening of the 29th, [Aug.] by 10 o'clock, the troops began to retire from the lines in such a manner that no chasm was made In the line, but as our regiment left their station
I shall have repeatedly to speak of the difficulty the Americans experienced in procuring a supply of the munitions of war. The following anecdote will show that it extended to small concerns. In the early part of the contest, gun-flints were so scarce, that troops while performing the manual exercise, substituted wooden ones for those of silex. While James Williamson was on duty one moonlight night in 1776, on Long Island,
on guard, the remaining troops moved to the right and left, and filled up the vacancies, while Gen. Washington took his station at the ferry, and superintended the embarkation of the troops. It was one of the most anxious, busy nights that [ ever recollect, and being the third in which hardly any of us had closed our eyes to sleep, we were all greatly fatigued. As the dawn of the next day approached, those of us who remained In the trenches became very anxious for our own safety, at which time there were several regiments still on duty. At this time a very dense fog bell an to rise, and it seemed to settle in a peculiar manner over both encampments. I recollect this peculiar, providential occurrence perfectly well,and so very dense was the atmosphere, that I could scarcely discern a man at six yards distance. When the sun rose we bad Just received orders to leave the lines, but before we reached the ferry, the Commander-in-chief sent one of his aids to order the regiment back to its former station. Cool. Chester immediately faced about and returned to the lines, where be tarried until the sun had risen but the fog remained as dense as ever. Finally, the second order arrived for the regiment to retire, and we very joyfully bid those trenches a long adieu. When we reached Brooklyn ferry the boats had not returned from their last trip, but they very soon appeared and took the whole regiment over to New York; and I think I saw Gen. Washington on the ferry stairs when I stepped into one of the last boats that received the troop. I left my horse tied to a post at the ferry.
"The troops having all safely reached New York, and the fog continuing as thick as ever, I began to think of my favorite horse, and requested leave to return and bring him off. Having obtained permission, I called for a crew of volunteers to go with me, and guiding the boat myself, I obtained my horse and got off some distance into the river before the enemy appeared in Brooklyn. As soon as they reached the ferry, we were saluted merrily from their musketry and finally by their field pieces, but we returned in safety. In the history of warfare, I do not recollect a more fortunate retreat. After all, the providential appearance of the fog saved a part of our army from being captured, and myself, for certain, among others who formed the rear guard. Gen. Washington had never received the credit which was due to him for this wise and most fortunate measure. When the enemy had taken possession of the height opposite to the city, they commenced firing from the artillery, and the fleet pretty soon were in motion to take possession of those waters; had this been done a little earlier, this division of our army must inevitably have fallen into their hands."
In Isaac Q. Leake's Life and Times of Gen. John Lamb published In 1850, a valuable contribution of Revolutionary History in its minor events, on page 363 appears the following commendation of the author's first historical work; from which that writer copied Washington's retreat from Long Island, above inserted: "In a very excellent book, entitled 'History of Schoharie county and Border Wars of New York,' but which contains much history and many matters of interest, which do not appear within the scope of its title, etc.;" and on page 398 is the following: "Correction. After page 362 had been printed. J. R. Simms, Esq. of Fultonville, furnished the publisher with conclusive evidence that the retreat from Long Island was on the 29th of August, and not on the 27th, as stated in the memoir of Cool. Hughes. The order mentioned was given immediately after the retreat was determined on in the council of war which was held on the 29th of August; and, therefore, the recollections of both Gen. Washington and Col. Hughes are erroneous."
off Gardiner's Island, as piquet guard, he saw an armed barge approaching the shore near him from one of the British ships off the Island. He instantly raised his piece and cocked it, when, to his chagrin, he found it had a wooden flint in the lock. The men in the barge, who were sufficiently near to see the leveled musket, ignorant of its harmless condition, shifted their course without attempting to land.--James Williamson.
The defeat of the Americans on Long Island and the loss of New York, were succeeded by a catalogue of disasters, which tended to make the royalists more bold, and greatly to dishearten the Americans. Several hundred houses were destroyed in New York by fire soon after the British took that city. In November, Forts Washington and Lee, situated nearly opposite each other on the banks of the Hudson, about ten miles above New York, which commanded the river, fell into the hands of the enemy: the former, after a most gallant defense, and the latter by being abandoned; and the Commander-in-Chief, unable to oppose a superior force, retreated into New Jersey. By the fall of Fort Washington, says the diary of Col. Tallmadge, "we lost about three thousand men, a great part of whom perished in prison by severe usage, sickness, etc." While a dark pall seemed spreading around the cause of liberty, Gen. Howe issued a proclamation offering pardon to all who would submit to royal authority. The prospects looked so gloomy, that many of the best citizens of New Jersey were induced to sacrifice their feelings, abandon freedom's cause, and claim British protection. Gen. Washington, with the remains of his army, was obliged to retreat over the Delaware, about which time the British gained possession of Rhode Island. The sagacious commander, who had seen his troops repeatedly in retreat before a well fed and well clothed enemy, not only observed their numbers fast lessening by desertion, but also the necessity of staying the tide of that enemy's success, and rolling back the cloud which seemed ready to burst and obscure the light of liberty forever. He resolved to hazard all in one bold effort, and on Christmas night he crossed the Delaware at Trenton, surprised a body of Hessian soldiers, took nearly a thousand prisoners, and recrossed the river in safety, with the loss of only nine men.
On the second of January, 1777, the main body of the British army under Cornwallis, who had hastened on from New York after the capture of the Hessians, marched to attack the Americans. They encamped near Trenton at night, intending to commence an action in the morning, when Washington, knowing the comparative weakness of his famished troops, conceived and executed another bold project. After renewing his fires, he left his encampment about midnight, and by a circuitous route gained the rear of the enemy-pushed on to Princeton, near which place he met and defeated a body of them-and again took several hundred prisoners. The enemy finding himself out-generaled, retreated to New Brunswick, and the American army went into winter quarters at Morristown, New Jersey. The brilliant victories of Trenton and Princeton, while they tended with magnetic power to raise the drooping spirits of the patriot band -in fact, of the whole American people-won for their great leader the appellation of the American Fabiu8. Few can realize at this day, the importance of those victories to the American arms. For months a series of disasters had attended them, and the stoutest hearts were beginning to yield to despair. The great and good Washington led forth to conquest, on those occasions, a half-naked, famishing troop of heroes, who, under similar circumstances, would have followed no other leader.
Reader! would you realize the sufferings of that little band of patriots, who remained willing to follow the fortunes of your bleeding country, in the darkest hour of her adversity? and by so doing arrive at a more just estimate of tHe value of that liberty you now enjoy? Imagine yourself on some of the coldest nights of winter, when the wintry winds are moaning around you, and the stars are looking coldly from the blue vault above, seated by the roadside where is passing in silence a body of armed men, fatigued, disheartened, ragged, barefooted, faint from want of food, and many with limbs frozen from exposure: and, on the morrow, go trace their footsteps o'er the frozen ground by their own blood / then tell me if you can guard with too much watchfulness-or look with favor upon any attempt to mar that liberty?
The proverbial caution and prudence of General Washington, were, perhaps, evinced in nothing more visibly during the war, than in his general orders to avoid the ill-will. or needless suffering of the citizens. When his cold and wearied troops encamped the night after the battle of Princeton, as has been stated to the write by an officer who was present, his orders contained this unusual requisition--"not to burn the stone walls!: --Tacitly implying that they might, on that one occasion, burn rail fences, which are said to have been burned with impunity.--Capt. Eben Williams.
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