History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883
Volume II, Page 494
Invasion, of Corry Town, and Sharon Battle.
On the 9th day of July, 1781, a part of the enemy, numbering about 500, Indians and Tories, under the command of Captain John Dockstader, a Tory, who had gone to Canada from the vicinity of the Mohawk, entered a small settlement called Corry Town,* in the present town of Root, three miles southeast from Spraker's Basin. A small blockhouse had been erected near the dwelling of Henry Lewis and picketed in, previous to this invasion, which took place about 10 o'clock, A. M.; and so unexpected was it, that most of the settlers were at their occupations at home when the first alarm was sounded. The Henry Lewis house was still standing in 1850. Jacob Dievendorf, a pioneer settler at that place, was at work in a fallow, with his two sons, Frederick and Jacob, and a Negro boy named Jacobus Blood. The last two were captured ; and Frederick, a lad 12 or 14 years old, in attempting to escape to the fort, was overtaken, tomahawked and scalped. Mrs. Dievendorf, with several female children and five or six slaves, fled from her dwelling and reached the fort in safety. Mrs. D. was a large, fleshy woman, and in hastily climbing a fence, it fell with her. Peter Bellinger, a brother of Mrs. Dievendorf, who was plowing in the settlement, hearing the alarm, unharnessed a horse, mounted it, and rode toward the Mohawk, pursued by several Indians, who arrived in sight of the river almost as soon as he did ; he, however, escaped. Rudolf Keller and his wife happened to be at the fort when the invaders appeared; Keller, Henry Lewis, and Conrad Enders being the only men in the fort at the time. Keller's oldest son, discovering the enemy, ran home : and as they lived too far north of the fort to think of gaining it, he hurried the rest of the family into the woods northwest of the house, where they gained a place of temporary safety. As they entered the woods they looked back and saw the Indians at their dwelling.
* So called after William pony, the patentee of the lands in that settlement.
Frederick Lewis and Henry Lewis, Jr., were among the first to gain the fort. The former fired three successive guns to warn the settlers of danger, and several, thus seasonably warned, found a safe retreat in the forest. Philip Bellinger was pursued by the enemy but made his escape, severely wounded. He died with his friends a day or two after, on the long known Lewis Bauder farm, said John Seller.
Jacob Tanner, with his family, were among the last to gain the picketed inclosure. The escape of this family would afford the artist a fair subject for his pencil. As the Indians were approaching his dwelling, he fled from it with a small child in one hand and a gun in the other, followed by his wife with an infant in her arms, and several children, on foot, hold of her clothes. The family were pursued toward the fort by tawny savages, with uplifted tomahawks, thirsting for their blood. Finding he could not cut off their retreat, the Indian in advance drew up his rifle and fired at Tanner. The ball passed just over the head of the child he carried, and entered a picket beside him. Several guns, tired from the fort, caused the enemy to gain a more respectful distance.
The Indians plundered and burnt all the buildings in the settlement, a dozen or more in number, except the house of David Lewis, who resided where Henry Voorhees formerly did. Lewis was a tory, and although his house was set on fire, an Indian chief with whom he was acquainted, gave him permission to put it out when they were gone. He did so, and part of the the building remained standing. Jacob Moyer and his father, who were cutting timber in the woods not far from Yates's, were found dead and scalped, one at each end of a log. They were killed by the party who pursued Peter Bellinger. The Indians were visible about the settlement until after four o'clock, P. M., when they moved off with their booty. They either killed or drove away most of the cattle and horses in the neighborhood. Several of the latter which were let loose by the Dievendorfs on the approach of the enemy, fled from their pursuit, and leaping a fence the sagacious animals gained a place of safety in the forest.
The lad Frederick Diefendorf, after lying insensible for several hours, recovered and crawled toward the fort. He was seen by his uncle, Mr. Keller, who went out to meet him. As he approached the lad, whose clothes were dyed in his own blood ; the latter still bewildered, raised his hands imploringly and besought his uncle not to kill him. Mr. Keller assured him of his intended kindness, took him up in his arms and carried him to the fort. His wounds were properly dressed and he recovered; but was killed several years after by a falling- tree. Jacob Diefendorf, Sen., fled before the Indians on their approach, and in his flight ran past a prisoner named James Butterfield, at a little distance from where he threw himself under a fallen tree. His pursuers enquired of Butterfield what direction he had taken. "That way," said the prisoner, pointing in a different direction from the one taken. The party were thus put upon a course which carried them past Diefendorf, and left him his own master. Some of the pursuing Indians passed over the log under which the object of search was concealed, and had they looked back, must have discovered him. The captives taken along by the enemy, were Jacob Diefendorf, Jr., the Negro Jacob, Christian and Andrew, sons of Frederick Bellinger and a girl named Miller, 10 or 12 years old. Christian Bellinger had been in the nine month service. His brother was taken so young and kept so long--to the end of the war-and was so pleased with the Indian life, that Christian had to go a third time to get him to return home with him. When he left, Capt. Gilbert Tice, who had gone from Johnstown, made him a present of a gun-sending some jewelry by him to his own wife still at Johnstown. Christian was ransomed by Capt. Tice, and became His waiter until exchanged at the close of the war. He married Barbara, a daughter of Jacob Diefendorf after his return. An old man named Putman captured at this time, too infirm to keep up with the enemy, was killed and scalped not far from his home.* The prisoner, Christian Bellinger (said John Lipe in 1846, whose father and namesake, settled on Nose Hill before the war), was captured on going to get a span of horses ; at which time he heard an alarm gun fired at Fort Plain. The horses were hoppled together, and
* The facts respecting the invasion of Corry Town were obtained by the writer at repeated interviews with John, a son of Rudolf Keller; Jacob Diefendorf, the young captive named; Toby Stood, at that time a young slave in the Diefendorf family, and Christian Bellinger Butterfield, although a stranger to Diefendorf at the time of saving his life, came to Corry Town after the war, and was hospitably entertained by him. John Keller died June 3,1860, in his 90th year.
he approached the lad, whose clothes were dyed in his own blood ; the latter still bewildered, raised his hands imploringly and besought his uncle not to kill him. Mr. Keller assured him of his intended kindness, took him up in his arms and carried him to the fort. His wounds were properly dressed and he recovered;
but was killed several years after by a falling tree. Jacob Diefendorf, Sen., fled before the Indians on their approach, and in his flight ran past a prisoner named James Butterfield, at a little distance from where he threw himself under a, fallen tree. His pursuers enquired of Butterfield what direction he had taken. "That way," said the prisoner, pointing in a different direction from the one taken. The party were thus put upon a course which carried them past Diefendorf, and left him his own master. Some of the pursuing Indians passed over the log under which the object of search was concealed, and had they looked back, must have discovered him. The captives taken along by the enemy, were Jacob Diefendorf, Jr., the Negro Jacob, Christian and Andrew, sons of Frederick Bellinger and a girl named Miller, 10 or 12 years old. Christian Bellinger had been in the nine month service. His brother was taken so young and kept so long-to the end of the war-and was so pleased with the Indian life, that Christian had to go a third time to get him to return home with him. When he left, Capt. Gilbert Tice, who had gone from Johnstown, made him a present of a gun-sending some jewelry by him to his own wife still at Johnstown. Christian was ransomed by Capt. Tice, and became his waiter until exchanged at the close of the war. He married Barbara, a daughter of Jacob Diefendorf after his return. An old man named Putman captured at this time, too infirm to keep up with the enemy, was killed and scalped not far from his home.* The prisoner, Christian Bellinger (said John Lipe in 1846, whose father and namesake, settled on Nose Hill before the war), was captured on going to get a span of horses ; at which time he heard an alarm gun fired at Fort Plain. The horses were hoppled together, and
* The facts respecting the invasion of Corry Town were obtained by the writer at repeated interviews with John, a son of Rudolf Keller; Jacob Diefendorf, the young captive named; Toby Stood, at that time a young slave in the Diefendorf family, and Christian Bellinger. Butterfleld, although a stranger to Diefendorf at the time of saving his life, came to Corry Town after the war, and was hospitably entertained by him. John Keller died June 3,1860, in his 90th year.
the Indians, with a bark rope, had tied the hopple to a tree in a favorable place to capture the one who came for them ; who chanced to be young Bellinger Among the early settlers at this place, as I learn from Jacob M. Stowits, was Philip G. P. Stowits, who was killed in the Oriskany battle. His son, Michael, was made a prisoner on informant's farm, and is credited with giving the enemy an exaggerated account of the strength defending the fort, which possibly prevented its capture ; but it is well known that even small defenses were avoided by the enemy, who did not like an exposure to certain death. There was also a Mowers family in this early settlement.
On the morning of the same day on which Corry Town was burned, Col. Willett dispatched Capt. Lawrence Gros from Fort Plain, with 40 men, with the twofold object of looking for provisions, and for American foes. As it was known that the settlements of New Dorlach and New Rhinebeck, were mostly inhabited by Tories ; thither Capt. Gros directed his steps, in the hope of getting a few beeves for the garrison. Near the former residence of one Baxter, he struck the trail of the enemy; drew up his men beside it, and marched them three times over the ground ; when he found that 120 men would hardly begin to beat a corresponding track. By this test the number of the enemy was estimated to be, at least 500, the number it was afterwards ascertained fully to equal.
Selecting two of his best men to follow the trail, Capt. Gros marched his company to Bowman's creek, to await the report of the scout. The latter proceeded about a mile and came upon the ground where the enemy had encamped the previous night. They approached sufficiently near to observe a large number of packs, and saw a few Indians cooking food-making preparations, as they supposed, for the return of their comrades, who, as it proved, had then gone to destroy Corry Town. They proceeded hastily to the creek and reported to Capt. Gros what they had discovered, who dispatched John Young and one other man on horseback to Fort Plain, to inform Col. Willett of the espionage, proposing to await his further orders at Bowman's creek.
The Sharon Battle.-Willett sent a message to Lieut.-Col. Veeder to march as speedily as possible with what troops he could collect at Fort Paris and elsewhere, to the theatre of action. Collecting all the men that could, with safety, be spared from Fort Plain, with the militia he could in the meantime assemble in the vicinity. Col. Willett set out for Bowman's creek. Passing Fort Clyde, in Frey's Bush, a draft was made upon that for additional troops, and about midnight he united his forces with those of Capt. Gros ; the aggregate number of which was 260, many of whom were militia. Willett set out for the camp of the enemy, and arrived in its vicinity about daylight. They were encamped in a cedar swamp on the north side of the Western turnpike, near the centre of the present town of Sharon, about two miles east of the Sharon Springs. The encampment was on the highest ground in the swamp, only a few rods distant from the turnpike, as now laid. On the south side of the road, a ridge of land may be seen, and still south of that a small valley. By a circuitous route Col. Willett gained this little dale, and there drew up his men with care in a crescent.
Thus prepared to receive the enemy, who were nearly double his own forces, he sent several men over the ridge to show themselves, fire on the foe, flee, and thus elicit pursuit within the American defiles. The decoy succeeded admirably, the whole party snatching up their weapons joined in the pursuit of the fugitives; and Willett's victory must have been signally complete, had he stationed his men nearer the enemy's camp, as he might have done without observation ; but having nearly half a mile to run, the stool-pigeons were so hotly pursued that the lines were broken to rescue them, which prevented the surprise from being entirely successful. So closely were the camp spies pursued, that Frederick Bellinger, one of the number, was overtaken and slain. Willett's men had been previously instructed to take trees or fallen logs and not leave them, and they were in all cases to reserve their fire until they had a fair shot. The battle lasted about two hours, when, to use the words of an American soldier who was in it, " the Indians got tired of them, and made off."-John Adam Strobeck. He was a private under Capt. Gros, was in the hottest part of the engagement, and was wounded in one hip.
The enemy, in their retreat, were hotly pursued by the Americans, led on by Col. Willett in person, and so completely were they routed, that most of their camp equipage, and plunder obtained the day before, fell into the hands of their victorious pursuers. Willett continued the chase but a short distance, fearing he might in turn fall into a snare, and the tables be "turned upon him.-Strobeck.
When the enemy returned in the evening to their encampment-distant from Corry Town 12 or 14 miles-they captured a German living near the former place, named Carl Herwagen. Finding it necessary to retreat, the Indians chose to kill their prisoners, lest they should lose the value of their scalps. Herwagen, who had been tied to a tree during the engagement, was loosened by his captor, who told him to run with the retreating Indians, instead of doing which, he turned and fled the other way-was shot down, tomahawked and scalped. The prisoners were all scalped except Butterfield and one of the Bellinger boys, who were taken to Canada.-Jacob Diefendorf* Mrs. Tunis Vrooman and Frederick Siller. The latter settled in the vicinity of the Indian camp soon after the war.
Col. Willett had five men killed in this battle, two of whom were Bellinger before mentioned, and a soldier named Kittle; and eight wounded, two mortally ; Capt. McKean, a brave and meritorious officer who died the next day at Fort Rensselaer+ and a private who died at Fort Plain. Among the wounded was a son of Capt McKean, who received a bullet in his mouth. The loss of the enemy was very severe, although never satisfactorily known ; it was supposed in killed and mortally wounded, to be about 50. Capt. Dockstader undertook the principal direction of that body of destructives, as was afterwards ascertained, to show himself worthy of a major's commission. He is said to have had one other engagement, and returned to Canada with his forces greatly reduced, glad to retain a Captain's commission.-Strobeck.
Two of the enemy carried a wounded comrade from the battlefield,
*The Life of Brant erroneously slates that he (Diefendorf), was buried by Willett's men. He said he partially buried himself in leaves, to keep off the punkies and mosquitoes which annoyed him.
+This fort was established In 1777 at Canajoharle, where a stone house owned by Philip Van Alstlne, was palisaded. This ancient dwelling long owned by Jacob H. Moyer is still standing. As it was on the then route from New Dorlach to Fort Plain, Capt. McKean was left there, but dying next day, he was taken for burial to the " soldier's ground " at Fort Plain. On its completion some months after, his remains were reburied with military honors on the brink of the hill in front of the block house. Lawrence Gros and John C. Lipe.
on a blanket between two poles, all the way to the Genesee valley, where he died. Col. Willett returned to Fort Plain without burying any of the dead. After the battle was over and the conquerors had left the field, Lieut -Col. Veeder* arrived there with 100 men from the north side of the river, mostly from Stone Arabia. He buried the Americans killed in battle, and fortunately found and buried those murdered near the camp. Young Dievendorf, who had been scalped, was discovered alive, rustling among the leaves, and his bloody face was mistaken for that of an Indian by one of Veeder's men who leveled a gun to fire upon him ; but a fellow soldier seasonably knocked up the weapon. Miss Miller, also scalped, was found alive, and was, with the lad Dievendorf, taken along to Fort Plain. The little girl was very weak when found, and on drinking a draught of cold water she instantly expired before reaching that fort. Jacob Dievendorf and his brother Frederick, under the care of Doctor Faught, a German physician of Stone Arabia, recovered from their wounds.-Strobeck, Dievendorf and Hiller.
Jacob Dievendorf's head was five years in healing. He lived to become one of the wealthiest farmers in Montgomery county ; and was, in truth, long allying monument of that unholy policy which armed the Indian, taught from his infancy to practice cruelty on an enemy instead of mercy, with a tomahawk and scalping knife, to slay the helpless women and unoffending off- spring of the rebel sons of Briton, who dared demand as their right, the privileges of British subjects. He died Oct. 8, 1859.
Most of the cattle driven away from Corry Town, being abandoned in the retreat of the enemy, found their way back alone to their former pastures : one of twelve horses taken by the enemy was recovered near the Indian camp, and three more broke loose from their new masters and returned to the settlement.-John Keller.
More of the Sharon Battle.-Among the wounded, was Jacob Radnour, who received a bullet in his right, thigh, which he carried to his grave. Like that worn by Sir Wm. Johnson, it gradually settled several inches and made him very lame. Hon Garret Dunckel was -wounded in the head, a ball passing in at the right eye and coming out back of the ear. Nicholas Yerdon
* Lieut -Col. Veeder, of Col. Visscher's regiment, resided in the Mohawk valley, two miles west of the village of Fonda, on the farm now owned by Barney Martin.
was wounded in the right wrist, which caused the hand to shrivel and become useless. They were all three from Freysbush, and with Adam Strobeck, were under Capt. Lawrence Gros. They were borne, on litters, to Fort Plain, and all recovered. Here is an incident of the battle : The enemy were evidently recovering from their first panic in knowing that they so greatly outnumbered the Americans. From a basswood stump, several shots had been made with telling effect, when William Seeber, grandfather of informant, Wm. H. Seeber, rested his rifle on the shoulder of Henry Failing and gave the stump-a shell, as it proved-a centre shot. The firing from the stump ceased. Seeing the enemy gaining confidence, Col. Willett shouted in a loud voice, "My men, stand your ground, and I'll bring up the levies and we'll surround the d--d rascals !" The enemy heard his voice, as he intended they should, and anticipating the arrival of fresh troop.-*, instantly broke and fled. As, in their pursuit, the Americans reached the stump, it was found to be hollow and a couple of Indians had been sheltered by it. Seeing a pool of blood on the ground, Col. Willett observed-" One that stood behind that stump will never get back to Canada."
On the morning of the same day on which Col. Willett engaged the enemy, the Rev. P. N. Sommer, the Lutheran minister of Schoharie, then blind, was to have preached in New Rhinebeck, in which settlement he had several sons with whom he dwelt. His hearers, some from a distance of five or six miles, were assembled at the barn of Conrad Brown, and he had taken his text, as a messenger, named Ottman, arrived and reported that he had heard several hundred guns fired in rapid succession a few miles distant. The minister, it is said, turned deadly pale on hearing the report, and the meeting was instantly broken up. Philip Hoffman, the old gentleman living near the France family, who had escaped from the tomahawk of Crysler and his mercenaries the preceding fall, hastened home from the meeting to secrete his wife once more ; and just as lie arrived at his house, some half a dozen Indians came up and killed and scalped them both. No other injury was done in the settlement at that time.*
* Henry France, Marcus Brown, and the record of the Lutheran Church, which records the murder of Hoffman and wife, and Herwagen, as having transpired on the 10th day of July, the date given by several living witnesses. Col. Stone erroneously dates the occurrence on the 1st of July.
The Indians, in their retreat from Sharon, crossed the west creek in New Dorlach, near the former residence of Col. Rice, on their way to the Susquehanna.-Brown.
The centennial anniversary of the Sharon battle was celebrated on the battle ground, on Saturday, July 9, 1881 ; on which occasion addresses were delivered by Messrs. Roscoe, Van Schaick and Lamont, and a poem was read by Hon. John Bowdish. The exercises were appreciated by an assemblage of several thousand people.
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