History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883
Volume II, Page 255. Perilous Mission of Lieut. Boyd.-One mile and a half from Sullivan's camp, the Indian path divided, one branch leading to Canasaraga, in the direction of Williamsburg, and the other to Beard's Town. Boyd advanced cautiously and took the Canasaraga path. On arriving at the latter place, he found it deserted, although the fires of the enemy were still burning. As the night was far advanced, he encamped near the village, intending to seek out, on the morrow, the location of the enemy. This was a most hazardous enterprise, 28 men, seven miles from their camp-a dense forest intervening-and a thousand foes besetting their path to cut off their retreat. But danger was what the party courted. Before daybreak, Boyd dispatched two of his men to Sullivan's camp-intending to push forward still farther into the wilderness-but as they never reached it, it is quite probable they were intercepted by the enemy and slain.-S. Treat's Oration, in Sullivan's Campaign. Before they were put to death, the enemy no doubt learned from them the exact situation of Boyd's command. Just after daylight, Lieut. B., accompanied by Murphy, cautiously crept from his place of concealment. Near the village of Canasaraga, they discovered two Indians coming out of a hut, fired at them, and a ball from Murphy's rifle sealed the fate of one. The other instantly fled. Murphy, as was his usual custom when he killed an Indian, took off his scalp, and as he had on a good pair of moccasins, he transferred them to his own feet. After the escape of the Indian fired upon by Boyd, he rightly supposed his visit would soon be made known, and he resolved to return immediately to the American camp. Boyd was advised by Han Yerry to pursue a different route back, which commendable advice he did not choose to follow.-James Williamson.
About the time Murphy shot the Indian in the morning, an incident of interest occurred near the main army, which is thus related by Maj. Hoops :
" Early in the morning, Mr. Lodge, the surveyor, proceeded to chain from the west side of the inlet, where there was a picquet posted, and ascended a little way from the foot of the hill, outside the sentinels, in advance from the picquet, and was noting his work, when he was fired upon by a single Indian who had crept up near him. Leaving his Jacob-staff standing, he made the best of his way toward the sentinel-the Indian almost at his heels, tomahawk in hand. It is probable the Indian had not seen the sentinel till he raised his piece and (when Mr. Lodge had passed him) fired, bringing him down, perhaps not mortally wounded. The whole picquet immediately advanced, strongly supported ; and ascending the hill, found a line of packs."
Fate of Boyd and Escape of Murphy.-Lieut. Boyd and his followers pursued their back track with the most zealous caution, with Han-Yerry in front and Murphy in the rear, to guard against surprise. It is not improbable that the two messengers sent forward by Boyd a few hours before, had fallen into the hands of the enemy contiguous to the American camp, and that they had left their packs to intercept the returning scout, which were found soon after Mr. Lodge was fired upon. Not the rustling of a leaf escaped the observation of the returning scout. Nearly two-thirds of the distance was overcome-less than two miles intervened between them and the camp-and the party were beginning to breathe freely, when they were surprised by 400 or 500 Indians and Royalists under Butler and Brant. The enemy was secreted in a ravine through which they rightly conjectured Boyd would approach.-Statement of John Salmon, in Sullivan's Campaign. What could 26 men do, when opposed by nearly 10 to one. Discovering the enemy to be concealed in great numbers, Boyd resolved on attempting his escape by cutting through his thickly opposing ranks. In the first onset, not one of his men fell, although their fire told fearfully upon the enemy. A second and third attempt was made, and 17 of the Americans had fallen.- Salmon. At the third onset, the ranks of the enemy were broken, and Murphy, tumbling a huge warrior in the dust who obstructed his passage-even to the merriment of his dusky companions-led his thus liberated comrades.-Treat's Oration.
supposing if any one escaped with life it would be Murphy, determined to follow
him, but not being as fast a runner, he was soon taken, and with him a sergeant
named Parker. Murphy, as he found the path unobstructed, exclaimed of himself,
in hearing of the enemy, " Clean Tim !" shaking his fist at the
same time at his pursuers.-Treat's Oration. After Murphy had been pursued
for some time, he observed that he had distanced all his followers except
two, a tall and a short Indian. Several times as they neared him, Murphy would
raise his rifle, which was unloaded, and they would fall back. He found as
he ran, that his moccasins began to prove too tight, owing to the swelling
of his feet.* He opened a pocket knife, and while running (at the hazard of
cutting his shins) he slit the tops of his moccasins, which afforded relief.
Shortly after, he entered a piece of swale, and his feet becoming entangled
in long grass and rank weeds, he
* It has been stated, and believed by many, that Murphy skinned the feet of this Indian and put the green hides on. It was not so, and had he been disposed to have done it, which I cannot possibly admit, he could not have had time on that morning.
fell. The place proved a favorable one for concealment, and he did not immediately rise. As his pursuers broke over a knoll so as to gain a view of the grass plot, not discovering him, although he did them, they altered their course. Murphy then loaded his rifle, and cautiously proceeded on his way to the camp. He knew from the beginning of the melee, should he be taken prisoner, what his fate would be, having the scalp of an Indian in his pocket, and his moccasins on his feet. Shortly after Murphy again set forward, he discovered himself to be headed by an Indian in the woods ; which discovery was mutual and both took trees. After dogging each other for some time, Murphy drew his ramrod, placed his hat upon it and gently moved it aside the tree ; when the Indian, supposing it contained a head, fired a ball through it. The hat was there-upon dropped, and running up to scalp his man, the Indian received a bullet from Murphy's rifle through his breast; exclaiming, as he fell backwards, " 0-wah ! "
Murphy, Garret Putman of Fort Hunter (afterwards a captain), and a French Canadian, of Lieut. Boyd's command, regained the American camp. The two latter secreted themselves, early in their flight under a fallen tree, around which was growing a quantity of thrifty nettles, and escaped observation ; although several Indians passed over the log in pursuit of Murphy. John Putman, a cousin of Garret, also from the vicinity of Fort Hunter, was killed in Groveland. At his burial it was supposed he had been shot in the act of firing, as a ball and several buck-shot had entered the right arm-pit, without injuring the arm.-Peter, a brother of John Putman, corroborated by James Williamson.
Rev. David Craft, historian of the Waterloo Centennial Celebration,* said in his address, that 15 of Boyd's party escaped ; this authority is given in Mr. Sullivan's report. It was long supposed that less than one third of that number survived the day, from the statements of soldiers who were there.
A soldier named Benjamin Custin, who joined Gen. Sullivan with the troops from Schoharie, attempted to follow Murphy,
* At Waterloo, Sept. 3, 1879, Seneca county, under the auspices of the Waterloo Library and Historical Society, celebrated the centennial event of-Sullivan's campaign. Addresses were delivered by John H Reamer, Josiah T. Miller, William Dorsheimer, Esquires, Rev. David Craft, and others; and a poem furnished by Rev. Dwight Williams, The proceedings were highly creditable and proved a brilliant success.
but was overtaken and slain in Groveland.-Geo. Richtmyer. Curtin (the text says Curtin one place and Custin another. ajb) also shot an Indian in the morning, says A. P. Vrooman. When Murphy reached the camp, and told the sad fate of his companions, Gen. Sullivan declared it was good enough for them, as they had disobeyed his orders ; possibly in advancing farther than he had intended they should.-J. Williamson.
Col. John Butler Exhibiting his True Character.-When Boyd found himself a prisoner, he obtained an interview with Brant, who was a freemason. After the magic signs of a brotherhood were exchanged, the dusky warrior assured the captive he should, not be injured. Soon after their capture, Boyd and Parker were hurried off to the vicinity of Beard's Town, now in the town of Leicester, 10 or 15 miles distant from the battlefield. Brant was called, off on some enterprise not long after, and the prisoners were in charge of Col. Butler, who began to interrogate them about the future intentions of Gen. Sullivan, threatening them, if true and ready answers were not given, with savage tortures. Boyd, believing the assurance of Brant ample for his safety, too high minded to betray his country on the appearance of danger, refused, as did Parker, to answer Butler's questions ; and the latter, executing his threat, gave them over to a party of Seneca Indians. Little Beard and his warriors, seized the helpless victims, and having stripped, bound them to trees. They then practised their favorite pastime for such occasions, of throwing their hatchets into the tree just over the heads of their victims. Becoming wearied of this amusement, a single blow severed Parker's head from his body. The attention of the tormentors being undivided, they began to tax their ingenuity for tortures to inflict on his surviving comrade. Making an incision into the abdomen, they fastened his intestines to a tree and compelled him to move round, it, until they were thus all drawn out. He was again pinioned to a tree ; his mouth enlarged ; his nails dug out; his tongue cut out; his ears cut off ; his nose cut off and thrust into his mouth ; his eyes dug out, and when sinking in death, he was also decapitated, and his disfigured head raised upon a sharpened pole. To those Indian cruelties, we must suppose, Butler was not only a witness, but that they were rendered the more inhuman in the hope of gratifying his revengeful disposition. Thus fell the brave Lieutenant Thomas Boyd, at the age of 22 years.
On the arrival of Murphy, Gen. Sullivan ordered Gen. Hand forward to relieve Boyd and party. At the spot where the engagement had taken place, he discovered several Indian blankets, and an Indian's corpse, which had been accidentally left among the fallen Americans ; but returned to the main army, ignorant of the fate of Boyd.- Oration of Treat.
Poor Han-Yerry, -who had performed prodigies of valor in the conflict of Oriskany, and who had rendered the American cause much real service, fell literally hacked in pieces. The army, as it moved on toward the Genesee river, buried the bodies of those who fell in the present town of Groveland. On the following day, Generals Clinton and Hand, with about 2,000 troops, were sent across the Genesee river to Beard's Town, to destroy the dwellings, crops, etc., of the Senecas.-Treat's Oration and -Letter of Van Campen.
Mr. Sanborne, a soldier who was on the extreme right wing of Clinton's army, discovered the headless bodies of Boyd and Parker. The rifle company of Capt. Simpson, of which Boyd had been Lieutenant, performed the melancholy duty of burying the mutilated remains of their comrades, which was done under a wild plum tree, and near a stream of water.-James Williamson.
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.