History From America's Most Famous Valleys
of Tryon County;
Border Warfare of New York,
During the Revolution.
By William W. Campbell
New York; Printed and Published by J. & J. Harper 1831
New York, at the time of its discovery and settlement by the Europeans, was inhabited by a race of men distinguished, above all the other aborigines of this Continent, for their intelligence and prowess. Five distinct and independent tribes, speaking a language radically the same, and practicing similar customs had united in forming a confederacy which, for durability and power, was unequaled in Indian history. They were the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Sececas, called the Iroquois by the French,and the Five Nations by the English. In cases of great emergency, each tribe or nation acted separately and independently; but a general council usually assembled at Onondaga, near the center of their territory, and determined upon peace or war, and ll other matters which regarded the interests of the whole. The powers of this council appear to have been not much dissimilar to those of the United States Congress under the old confederation.
Their language, though guttural, was sonorous. Their orators studied euphony in their words and in their arrangement. Their graceful attitudes and gestures, and their flowing sentences, rendered their discourses, if not always eloquent, at least highly impressive. An erect and commanding figure, with a blanket thrown loosely over the shoulder, with his naked arm raised, and addressing in impassioned strains a group of similar persons sitting upon the ground around him, would, to use the illustration of an early historian of this State, give no faint picture of Rome in her early days. (Smith's History of New York)
They were very methodical in their harangues. When in conference with other nations, at the conclusion of every important sentence of the opposite speaker, a sachem gave a small stick to the orator who was to reply, charging him at the same time to remember it. After a short consultation with the others, he was enabled to repeat most of the discourse, which he answered article by article. (Smith's History of New York)
These nations were distinguished for their prowess in war, as well as for their sagacity and eloquence in council, War was their delight. Believing it to be the most honorable employment of men, they infused into their children in early life high ideas of military glory.
They carried their arms into Canada, across the Connecticut, to the banks of the Mississippi, and almost to the Gulf of Mexico. Formidable by their numbers and their skill, they excited respect and awe in the most powerful tribes, and exacted tribute and obedience from the weak. In 1608, the first efficient settlement was made in Canada by Governor Champlain, who founded Quebec. At this time the Five Nations were waging a desperate war with the Hurons and Algonquins, who inhabited a part of that province. Champlain, unfortunately for the colony, entered into an alliance with the latter tribes, and by furnishing them with men and firearms, enabled them to gain a temporary ascendancy. (Smith's History of New York) The confederates, who had always been victorious, and who considered the Hurons and Algonquins as little better than vassals, could not brook this defeat. They applied to, and courted the friendship of the Dutch, who found their way up the Hudson river, and established themselves at Albany, soon after the settlement of Quebec. From them they obtained arms and munitions, and soon regained the influence and power which they had lost. This opportune arrival and assistance of the Dutch; together with their mild, conciliatory manners, endeared them to the Five Nations, who afterward looked up to them for advice and direction in their own affairs, and protected and fought for them with cheerfulness and promptitude. But the interference of the French aroused the indignation of these haughty warriors: for almost a century they harassed their infant colonies, and visited with a dreadful vengeance both the authors of their disgrace their descendants. This, if not the iron, was the golden age: of the Iroquois. During this period, the hardy German passed up the Mohawk in his light canoe, and penetrated into the remote bounds of their territory, where he exchanged his merchandise and munitions of war for the peltry of the Indians. (Memoirs of an American Lady.)
In 1664 the province of New-York was surrendered to the English by Peter Stuyvesant, the last of the Dutch governors. The English, perceiving the importance of being on friendly terms with the Indians, exerted themselves to preserve that good understanding which had existed between the latter and the Dutch. Conventions were. Frequently called at Albany, at which the governors met and conferred with them; presents were distributed liberally, and no opportunity was neglected to impress them with ideas of the wealth and power of the English monarch. The French were not idle. Jealous of the growing power and influence of the English colonies, and desirous of monopolizing the Indian trade, they adopted various plans to detach the Iroquois from their alliance with the English. They endeavored to break up the confederacy, that they might conquer the nations in detail. They attacked the English, in hopes that, by gaining some splendid victories over them, they would convince of the Indians of the weakness of their allies, and of the strength of their enemies. They sent missionaries among, them, more desirous of making allies for France than converts to Christianity: in this they partially succeeded - and in 1671, persuaded the Caughnawagas to remove from their settlements on the Mohawk, and to establish themselves in Canada.
In 1688 vengeance of the Five Nations was again aroused by a stratagem of the Dinondadies, a tribe at war with them, and in alliance with France. The Dinondadies killed several of their ambassadors while going to hold a conference in Canada, and falsely pretended that they had been informed of their journey by the French governor. Incensed at what they considered a great breach of faith, about twelve hundred -warriors of the Five Nations landed at Montreal on the 26th July, 1688, and killed about a thousand Frenchmen, women, and children, and carried away twenty-six prisoners, whom they afterward burned alive. The French retaliated for these aggressions by making incursions into the Indian country, and burning their villages.
In 1690 the French made an attack upon Schenectady; took the place by surprise, as it was in the dead of winter, and no danger was apprehended, the whole village was destroyed - about sixty of the inhabitants were killed, and most of the remainder perished, as they fled naked through the snow toward Albany. * See appendix-Note A.
This was the first intimation the colony of New-York received that a war was meditated on the part of the French; it was the more perfidious, as negotiations were then pending, in Europe for the purpose of settling the claims of the two governments in America. During this war the confederates remained attached to the English, and rendered important services by harassing the frontiers of their enemies. About 1701 a general treaty of peace was made between the French and Five Nations, which put an end to these long and afflicting wars, in which both parties had been sufferers. In the early part of this century, (about 1712) the Monecons, or Tuscaroras, a tribe of Indians living in the Carolinas, made war upon the inhabitants of those colonies; they were vanquished by the colonists, and forced to abandon their country; they are thought to have been allies of the Five Nations in some of their southern expeditions. From a similarity in their language, the Confederates supposed them derived from a common origin; they received them into the confederacy, assigned them a section of their territory to dwell in; after this they were called the Six Nations. The Tuscaroras never possessed the energy and courage of the other confederates. Tradition says that they were obliged to wear a woman's pocket for a tobacco pouch, as a mark of their effeminacy and want of courage.
From the commencement of this century down to 1750, the French missionaries and agents were very successful. That body of men, the French Jesuits, who by their zeal put to shame many men engaged in a better cause, entered upon this field of labor with great ardor. At one time they doffed the clerical habit, and putting on the Indian garb, accompanied the warriors on distant and hazardous expeditions; and at another, they, astonished their savage audience with the splendid and imposing rites and ceremonies of the Romish church. They spoke in glowing terms of the resources and magnificence of le grand Monarque, as they termed the King of France.
They obtained permission for the French to build forts in their territory; and in short, when the last French war broke out in 1754, the four western tribes went over to the French, and took up the hatchet against the English. This war terminated by the complete subjection of Canada, and the annexing it to the British dominions. The Indians, however, witnessing the defeat of the French, had many of them returned, before the close of the war, to the English, by whom they were again received as allies.
Major General William Johnson* (see Appendix-Note B.) rendered very important services during this war - his complete victory over Baron Dieskau, Sept. 1757, at the head of Lake George, and the capture of Fort Niagara by him, had aided materially in bringing the war to a successful termination. He was created a Baronet, and Parliament voted him five thousand pounds sterling; he was also appointed general superintendent of Indian affairs; he had settled upon the Mohawk in 17 34, having emigrated there from Ireland, and thus rose to rank and affluence. Stern, determined in purpose, at times even arbitrary, sagacious and penetrating, but, when necessary, urbane and conciliatory in his manners, he was eminently qualified for the station to which he was appointed. No person has ever exerted an equal influence over those unlettered children of the forest. He lived at Johnstown, where he had a beautiful residence, and was surrounded by the Mohawks. The Indians looked up to him as their father, paying the utmost deference to his advice, and consulting him on all occasions. Out of compliment to them, he frequently wore in winter their dress; he received them cordially at his house, where sometimes hundreds of them assembled. So great was the respect they had for him, that though the house contained many valuables, nothing was purloined from it even in their carousals. Being a widower, he received into his family and Indian maiden, a sister of the celebrated sachem Joseph Tayandanaga, called the Brant.
The influence of Sir William continued until his death, about the commencement of the revolutionary war, when the principal events took place, which I design hereafter to relate.
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