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
Invoice of Scalps
Extract of a letter from Captain Courish, of the New England militia, dated Albany, March 7th, 1782.
The peltry taken in the expedition will, as you see, amount to a good deal of money. The possession of this booty at first gave us pleasure; but we were struck with horror to find among the packages eight large ones, containing scalps of our unhappy folks taken in the three last years by the Seneca Indians, from the inhabitants of the frontiers of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and sent by them as a present to Col. Haldiman, Governor of Canada, in order to be by him transmitted to England. They were accompanied by the following curious letter to that gentleman.
Tioga, January 3d, 1782.
"May it please your Excellency,
"At the request of the Seneca chiefs, I send herewith to your Excellency, under the care of James Boyd, eight packs of scalps, cured, dried, hooped, and painted with all the Indian triumphal marks, of which the following is invoice and explanation.
No. 1. Containing 43 scalps of Congress soldiers, killed in different skirmishes; these are stretched on black hoops, four inch diameter; the inside of the skin painted red, with a small black spot to note their being killed with bullets. Also 62 of farmers, killed in their houses; the hoops red; the skin painted brown, and marked with a hoe; a black circle all round to denote their being surprised in the night; and a black hatchet in the middle, signifying their being killed with that weapon.
No. 2. Containing 98 of farmers, killed in their houses; hoops red; figure of a hoe, to mark their profession; great white circle and sun, to show they were surprised in the daytime; a little red foot, to show they stood upon their defense, and died fighting for their lives and families.
No. 3. Containing 97 of farmers; hoops green, to show they were killed in their fields; a large white circle with a little round mark on it for the sun, to show that it was in the daytime; black bullet mark on some--hatchet on others.
No. 4. Containing 102 of farmers, mixed of the several marks above; only 18 marked with a little yellow flame, to denote their being of prisoners burnt alive, after being scalped, their nails pulled out by the roots, and other torments; one of these latter supposed to be of a rebel clergyman, his band being fixed to the hoop of his scalp. Most of the farmers appear by the hair to have been young or middle aged men; there being but 67 very gray heads among them all; which makes the service more essential.
No. 5. Containing 88 scalps of women; hair long, braided in the Indian fashion, to show they were mothers; hoops blue; skin yellow ground, with little red tadpoles, to represent, by way of triumph, the tears of grief occasioned to their relations; a black scalping knife or hatchet at the bottom, to mark their being killed with those instruments; 17 others, hair very gray; black hoops; pain brown color, no mark but the short club or cassetete, to show they were knocked down dead, or had their brains beat out.
Nor. 6. Containing 193 boys' scalps, of various ages; small green hoops; whitish ground on the skin, with red tears in the middle, and black bullet marks, knife, hatchet, or club, as their deaths happened.
No. 7. 211 girls scalped, big and little; small yellow hoops; white ground; tears, hatchet, club, scalping knife, &c.
No. 8. This package is a mixture of all the varieties above mentioned, to the number of 122; with a box of birch bark, containing 29 little infants' scalps of various sizes; small white hoops; white ground.
With these packs the Chiefs send to your Excellency the following speech, delivered by Conciogatchie, in council, interpreted by the elder Moore, the trader, and taken down by me in writing.
"Father!--We send you herewith many scalps, that you may see that we are not idle friends. A blue belt.
"Father!--We wish you to send these scalps over the water to the Great King, that he may regard them and be refreshed; and that he may see our faithfulness in destroying his enemies, and be convinced that his presents have not been made to ungrateful people. A blue and white belt with red tassels.
"Father!--Attend to what I am now going to say; it is a matter of much weight. The great King's enemies are many, and they grow fast in numbers. They were formerly like young panthers; they could neither bit nor scratch; we could play with them safely; we feared nothing they could do to us. But now their bodies are become big as the elk, and strong as the buffalo; they have also got great and sharp claws. They have driven us out of our country by taking part in your quarrel. We expect the great King will give us another country, that our children may live after us, and be his friends and children as we are.--Say this for us to the great King. To enforce it we give this belt. A great white belt with blue tassels.
"Father!--We have only to say further, that your traders exact more than ever for their goods; and our hunting is lessened by the war, so that we have fewer skins to give for them. This ruins us. Think of some remedy. We are poor, and you have plenty of every thing. We know you will send us powder and guns, and knives, and hatchets; but we also want shirts and blankets. A little white belt."
I do not doubt but that your Excellency will think it proper to give some further encouragement to those hones people. The high prices they complain of, are the necessary effect of the war. Whatever presents may be sent for them through my hands shall be distributed with prudence and fidelity. I have the honor of being,
Your Excellency's most obedient,
And most humble servant,
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