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Massacre of Sherburne's Corps. Attempt of Arnold to release the Prisoners. Menaces of the Indians. Letter from Sherburne
May is surrendered the fort and garrison as soon as Foster arrived. Meanwhile, Major ** Henry Sherburne was sent by Arnold from Montreal, with one hundred and forty men, to re-enforce the garrison, but Bedell, “valuing safety more than fidelity and honor,” refused to accompany him. Sherburne arrived upon the shore of Lake St. Louis on the day of the surrender, and, having crossed the day after, left forty men as guards, and, with one hundred, proceeded toward the fort, unconscious of the disgraceful conduct of Butterfield. About five in the evening the whole force of Foster's Canadians and Indians burst from an ambuscade and fell upon the republicans. They made a brave defense for nearly an hour and a half, when the Indians, in number greatly superior, formed a girdle around them, and at a given signal rushed upon the devoted little band and disarmed them. Infuriated by the obstinate resistance of the Americans, the Indians butchered about twenty of them with knives and tomahawks, and, stripping the remainder almost naked, drove them in triumph to the fort.” The loss of the Americans, in the action and by massacre, was fifty-eight; the enemy lost twenty-two, among whom was a brave of the Senecas. As soon as Arnold heard of the disasters at the Cedars, he marched with about eight hundred men against the enemy, then at Vaudreuil, for the two-fold purpose of chastising May, them and releasing the American prisoners. He arrived at St. Ann's on the after* noon of the 20th, at which time the bateaux of the enemy were distinctly seen taking the American prisoners from an island three miles distant, toward the main land on the south side of the St. Lawrence. About the same time a party of Caughnawaga Indians,” whom Arnold had sent to the hostile savages in the morning, demanding a surrender of the prisoners, and threatening them with extermination if any more murders of Americans should be perpetrated, returned with an answer of defiance. The Indians sent back word to Ar mold that they were too numerous to fear him, and that if he should attempt to cross the river and land, for the purpose of rescuing the Americans, every prisoner should be immediately put to death. Unmindful of this threat, Arnold filled his boats with men, and proceeded to the island which the enemy had just left. Five Americans, naked and almost famished, were there, and informed him that all the other prisoners, except two (who, being sick, were butchered), had been taken to Quinze Chiens, four miles below. Arnold, with his flotilla, proceeded thither. The enemy opened an ineffectual fire upon them, but as night Mayo was closing in, and his men were fatigued, the general returned to St. Ann's and called ** a council of war. He there received a flag from the British commander, accompanied by Major Sherburne, giving him the most positive assurances that if he persisted in his design of attacking him, it would be entirely out of his power to restrain his savages from disencumbering themselves of the prisoners, by putting them to death. Major Sherburne confirmed the information that a massacre had already been agreed upon. Foster also demanded of Arnold an agreement, on his part, to a proposed cartel which Sherburne and the other officers had been compelled to sign. This agreement covenanted for the delivery of * Gordon, ii., 65. * Stone, in his Life of Brant, asserts that that chief used his best endeavors to restrain the fury of the Indians after the surrender of Sherburne. Captain M'Kinstry (late Colonel M*Kinstry, of Livingston's Manor, Columbia county) commanded the company, on that occasion, which fought most obstinately with the Indians. On that account the savages had determined to put him to death by the torture, and had made preparations for the horrid rite. Brant interposed, and, in connection with some humane English officers, made up a purse and purchased an ox, which the Indians roasted for their carousal instead of the prisoner. Brant and M'Kinstry became personal friends, and the chief often visited the latter at the manor after the war— Life of Brant, i., 155. * The Caughnawagas called themselves the Seven Nations of Canada. Many of them were with the Mohawks and others of the Six Nations of New York in the battle of the Cedars, but those upon the Island of Montreal were friendly to the republicans. A remnant of the tribe now inhabit a village called Caughnawaga, about twelve miles from Montreal, and profess Christianity. They have a handsome church, are industrious, temperate, and orderly, and, unlike others of the Indian tribes, increase rather than diminish in population. I saw several of them in Montreal selling their ingenious birch bark and bead work. They are quite light, having doubtless a liberal tincture of French blood. Their language is a mixture of Iroquois and French.
Dishonorable Conduct of a British Commander. Washington's Opinion. Final Adjustment. Cairn on the St. Lawrence.
an equal number of British soldiers in exchange for the Americans, with the condition that the latter should immediately return to their homes, and not again take up arms. Four American captains were to go to Quebec as hostages till the exchange should be effected. Arnold was strongly averse to making such an agreement, but the dictates of humanity and the peculiar circumstances of the case caused him to yield to the terms, except the conditions that the Americans should not again take up arms, and that they should be pledged not to give any information, by words, writings, or signs, prejudicial to his majesty's service. Foster waived these points, and the convention was signed." The part performed by Foster in coercing the American officers into compliance with his demands, by suspending the bloody hatchet of the Indians over their heads, was thought disgraceful, and Congress refused to ratify the agreement, except upon such terms as the British government would never assent to. Although Washington abhorred the act, he considered the convention binding; and General Howe complained of the bad faith of Congress. The British government, however, indicated its appreciation of the matter by letting the waters of oblivion flow quietly over the whole transaction. The prisoners were finally released by General Carleton, and the hostages at Quebec were sent home on parole. Arnold, with his detachment, returned to Montreal, where, a few days afterward, a Committee of Congress, consisting of Franklin, Chase, and Carroll, arrived, to inquire into the state of affairs. Their mission was fruitless, for all hope of maintaining a foothold in Canada was abandoned by the military leaders, and, as previously noted, the Americans soon afterward withdrew entirely from the province. We entered the lake near Grand Island, above Cedars Rapids, and, passing the Rapids of Coteau du Lac, six miles above the latter, landed at a pretty little village of the same
name. Here the St. Lawrence expands into one of those broad lakes which mark its course from Ontario to the gulf. It is called Lake St. Francis, and is forty miles long, and in some places twelve or thirteen broad. Beautiful islands, covered with timber and luxuriant shrub
bery, are scattered over its bosom. We passed many of those floatingislands—extensive rafts of lum
ber—which indicate a chief feature in the commerce of that noble river. On one of the small islands
on the northern shore, opposite the district of Glengary, is a huge “cairn,” sixty feet high, the pinnacle of which is an iron cannon, from whose muzzle a flag-staff is projected. A
spiral path-way leads from base to summit, sufficiently wide for a person to pass up and down by it in safety. It is built of loose stones, without mortar or cement. The people of the neighboring parish of Glengary (who are chiefly Scotch), under the direction of Colonel Carmichael, reared it, in general testimony of their loyalty during the Canadian rebellion so called, of 1837–8, and in especial honor of Sir John Colborne (now Lord Seaton), who was the commander-in-chief of the British forces in Canada at that time. In imitation of the manner in which tradition asserts that the ancient cairns were built, each person in the district, man, woman, and child, capable of lifting a stone, went to the island and added one to the pile. We passed St.
* Marshall, Gordon, Allen, Sparks.
* This is probably the only structure of the kind on the American continent.
Cairn is a word of Celtic
origin, used to denote the conical piles of stones frequently found upon the hills of Britain. These piles are supposed by some to have been erected as memorials of some local event, while others assign to them a sepulchral character. Some are supposed to be sacrificial, like the carnedd of the Welsh. They all have a similar appearance wherever found, being composed of loose stones piled in a conical form.
St. Regis and its ancient Church. Passage of Rapids. Wind-mill Point and Ogdensburgh. - Loyalty of • British Veteran
Regis,' the first village upon the St. Lawrence within the territory of the United States, about sunset, and before the twilight had entirely faded we were again out of the river and in the Cornwall Canal, on the north side of the St. Lawrence, to avoid the swift rapids, call. ed the Long Sault, nearly two miles in extent. We passed the Du Platte Rapids in the night, and at dawn entered the Gallopes or Galoose Rapids, nine miles below Ogdensburgh. These are a mile and a half long, and present a formidable obstacle to the upward passage of vessels. The channel is exceedingly marrow, and very near the southern shore. With three men at the tiller-wheel, and a full head of steam, our goodly “Queen” came up to the most rapid and intricate part, where, for nearly ten minutes, it was difficult to determine whether an inch of progress was made, and we were more than half an hour in making the mile and a half. The usual time occupied in going down from Ogdensburgh to Montreal by steam-boat is nine hours. On account of rapids and currents, and the canal navigation, the voyage up occupies about seventeen hours, We caught the first rays of the morning sun reflected from the spires at Prescott and Ogdensburgh, flourishing villages, which flank the St. Lawrence at the head of all its numerous rapids. Wind-mill Point, on the Canada side, is close by, and as we passed the famous cape we were edified with a running commentary on the beneficence of monarchy and the horrors of republicanism, from an old officer of a British corps of marine engineers, who, with his daughter, was a passenger from Montreal. He had amused me for an hour the evening previous, after passing St. Regis, by a relation of his personal adventures in that vicinity during our last war with Great Britain. He then commanded a gun-boat with eighty men; and he boasted, with much warmth and satisfaction, of the terrible manner in which he galled the Yankees with “grape and cannister” at the time of the engagements at Chrysler's Farm, Williamsburgh, and near St. Regis. He was bubbling over with loyalty, and became rabid at the mere mention of annexation. His head was white with the bleaching of threescore and ten years. Great experience and extensive practical knowledge, with frankness and volubility in conversation, made him a most agreeable companion, and we much regretted parting with him and his amiable daughter at Kingston. I called Wind-mill Point a “famous cape.” Its notoriety is very youthful, yet its history is one of those epitomes of progress worth noticing, which make up the movements of the uations. It was here that the Canada patriots (so called) in 183° took post with a view of attacking Fort Wellington, a small fortification between the point and Prescott. There
* St. Regis is an old Indian village, and contains a small Roman Catholic Church, built about the year 1700. When completed, the priest informed the Indians that a bell was highly important to their worship, and they were ordered to collect furs sufficient to purchase one. They obeyed, and the money was sent to France for the purpose. The French and English were then at war. The bell was shipped, but the vessel that conveyed it fell into the hands of the English, and was taken into Salem, in the fall of 1703. The bell was purchased for a small church at Deerfield, on the Connecticut River, the pastor of which was the Rev. Mr. Williams. The priest of St. Regis heard of the destination of his bell, and, as the Governor of Canada was about to send an expedition, under Major Ronville, against the colonies of New England, he exhorted the Indians to accompany him and get possession of it. Ronville, with 200 French and 142 Indians, arrived near Deerfield in the evening of the 29th of February, 1704. During the night they attacked the unsuspecting villagers, killed 47, and made 112 prisoners. The latter, among whom were the pastor and a part of his family, were taken to Canada. The only house left standing was that of Captain Sheldon, which the assailants themselves occupied in securing their prisoners. It is still standing, near the center of the village, and is represented in the annexed cut. The bell was conveyed in triumph through the forest to Lake Champlain, to the spot where Burlington now stands, and there they buried it with the benedictions of Father Nicolas, the priest of St. Regis, who accompanied them. Thus far they had carried it, by means of timber, upon their shoulders. They hastened home, and returned in early spring with oxen SHELDox and sled to convey the sacred bell, now doubly hallowed in their minds, to its destination. House. The Indians of the village had never heard the sound of a bell, and powerful was the impression upon their minds when its deep tones, louder and louder, broke the silence of the forest as it approached their village at evening, suspended upon a cross piece of timber, and rung continually by the delighted carriers. It was hung in the steeple with solemn ceremony, and there it remains. The polished tin that covers the steeple of the old church was glittering in the last rays of the evening sun as we passed far away on the northern shore.
The “Patriots" of 1837. Preparations for a Battle. Fort Wellington. Battle at Wind-mill Point. Defeat of the “Patriots."
were several stone buildings and a strong stone wind-mill on the point. These were taken possession of by the insurgents toward noon on the 12th of November, 1838. They numbered about two hundred, many of them being from our frontier towns. They came in two schooners, which were towed down the St. Lawrence by the steamer United States, the captain (Van Cleve) supposing them to be, as represented by a passenger, laden with merchandise. As soon as he discovered the character of the vessels, he resolved to go no further, and stopped at Morristown, ten miles above Ogdensburgh. The schooners' lines were cast, and the next morning, filled with armed men, they were at anchor between Ogdensburgh and Prescott. The insurgents landed at Wind-mill Point, and commenced fortifying their position. Recruits from our shores swelled their ranks for the first twelve hours after their landing. Ogdensburgh and Prescott were in great commotion, and before might not a living being was to be seen in the latter place, for there would evidently be the battle-field. Preparations were immediately made at Fort Wellington to dislodge the patriots, and a British armed steam-boat, lying at Prescott, prepared to co-operate with the garrison. During the evening the steam-boat Telegraph arrived, having on board Colonel Worth, of the United States army, and two companies of troops, with a marshal, to maintain neutrality. Early next morning two armed British steamers arrived with troops, and an assault was commenced upon the patriots by throwing bombs upon the houses and the mill. The field pieces of their battery on shore returned the fire, and, after a fight of an hour, the British were driven back into the fort, with the loss of about one hundred men killed, and many wounded. Many of the patriots had fled in the morning, and when the action commenced there were only a hundred and twenty-eight left on the point, while the government troops amounted to more than six hundred. The insurgents lost five men killed and thirteen wounded. The next day they sent out a flag, but the bearer was shot. On the 15th the British received a re-enforcement of four hundred regulars, with cannon and gun-boats. The patriots were also re-enforced, and numbered more than two hundred. The government troops, with volunteers from Kingston, in all about two thousand men, surrounded the patriots by land and water, and kept up a continual cannonading until the evening of the 16th, when the latter surrendered. A white flag was displayed from the mill, and three or four others were sent out by the patriots, but the bearers were shot down.” Indeed, there seemed to be but little disposition on the part of the conquerors to give quarter. The dwellings in the vicinity of the wind-mill were burned, and it is asserted that a number of the patriots were consumed in one of them, which stood upon the beach. Other buildings have been burned since, and their blackened ruins, with the wind-mill, battered by cannon-balls, stand there now, gloomy mementoes of an abortive attempt to sever the chains of colonial vassalage. According to Theller, thirty-six patriots were killed, two escaped, and ninety were made prisoners. The British lost a hundred and fifty men and twenty officers killed, among whom was Captain Drummond. The commander of the insurgents was a young Pole, only thirtyone years of age, named Von Schoultz, who, with ten others, was hung, and a large portion of the remainder of the prisoners was banished to Van Diemen's Land. At Ogdensburgh we left the British Queen, and went on board the Lady of the Lake, bound for Oswego. Having an hour to pass before her departure, we employed it in a pleas
* This view was sketched from the steam-boat, when a little below the wind-mill, looking west-northwest. The mill is a strong stone structure, and answered a very good purpose for a fort or block-house. Its narrow windows were used by the patriots as loop-holes for their muskets during the action. * See “Theller’s Canada in 1837-8.”
The Oswegatchie. Old French Fort at Ogdensburgh. Putnam's Feats. Testimony of History.
ant ramble through the town and along the banks of the dark Oswegatchie. It was Sabbath morning, and all was quiet in that pleasant village. We traversed the high banks of the stream, along its majestic course from the bridge to the dam, about half a mile. The declivity of the bank is studded with oaks, sycamores, and pines, and lofty trees shade the pleasant pathway the whole distance, making it a delightful promenade either at hot noon or in the evening twilight. The water is of an amber color when not turbid, and from this one of its chief tributaries, the Black Lake, derives its name. Ogdensburgh is near the site of the old French fort generally known as Fort Oswegatchie, but on their maps, as early as 1740, it is called Fort Presentation, and sometimes La Gallette. This fort was garrisoned by the French during a part of the Seven Years' War, but was taken by the English in 1760, while they were descending the St. Lawrence to attack Montreal. It is related that Putnam, then a lieutenant colonel, performed one of his daring and original feats here, in the attack upon the fort and upon the two armed vessels that lay at the mouth of the Oswegatchie River. Humphreys says that he undertook, with one thousand men in fifty bateaux, to capture the vessels by boarding. With beetle and wedges, he proceeded to secure the rudders, to disable the vessels and prevent them from bringing their broadsides to bear, and then to make a furious attack upon and board them. As they approached, the crew of one of the vessels, panic-struck, forced the commander to surrender, and the other vessel was run ashore. The fort was the next object of solicitude. With the permission of Amherst, Putnam caused a number of boats to be prepared with musket-proof fascines' along the sides, so as to form a shelter from the fire of the enemy. The fort was defended by an abatis overhanging the water; and, to overcome such a formidable obstacle, he caused a broad plank, twenty feet in length, to be attached to the bow of each boat, so that it might be raised and lowered at pleasure. This was to form a bridge over the projecting abatis, on which the besiegers might pass to the attack on the fort. As soon as the boats, thus strangely equipped, began to move toward the fort, the alarmed garrison, unused to such martial enginery, surrendered without firing a shot. * These tales, like many others of which Putnam is the reputed hero, partake somewhat of the marvelous, and in this instance rather conflict with cotemporary history as well as probability. Colonel Mante, who was intimate with Rogers and Putnam, says that one of the vessels was grounded before the attack, and that an action of four hours occurred with the other. He also says that “the general ordered the vessels [of the English] to fall down the stream, post themselves as close to the fort as possible, and man their tops well, in order to fire upon the enemy, and prevent their making use of their guns, while the grenadiers rowed in with their broadswords and tomahawks, fascines and scaling-ladders, under cover of the light infantry, who were to fire into the embrasures.” He says nothing about Putnam's project or the “planks.” Dr. Trumbull says, “The general, receiving intelligence that one of the enemy's vessels was aground and disabled, and that another lay off La Gallette, determined, with the utmost dispatch, to go down the river and attack Oswegatchie and Isle Royal. On the 17th of August the row-galleys fell in with the French sloop commanded by M. de la Broquirie, who, after a smart engagement, surrendered to the English galleys. . . . . . . By the 23d two batteries were opened against the fort, and it was cannonaded by them in concert with the row-galleys in the river. M. Ponchaut, the commander, beat a parley, and surrendered the fort on terms of capitulation.” From personal observation of the ground, I am inclined to think that a plank twenty feet long could hardly have reached the abatis from the water, even in a perpendicular position, unless the altitude of the shores was less then than now. Very possibly the ingenious idea of wedging up the rudders of the vessels and of scaling the outworks of the fort was conceived by the fertile
* Fascines, from the Latin fascina, fagot, is a term used in fortifications to denote bundles of fagots, twigs, or branches of trees, which, being mixed with earth, are used for filling up ditches, forming parapets, &c.
* History of the Late War in North America, &c., by Thomas Mante, major of a brigade in the campaign of 1764; London, 1772.
* History of Connecticut from 1630 to 1764, by Benjamin Trumbull, D.D.