Page images
PDF
EPUB

Robbery of General Schuyler's House. Retreat of the Marauders. Abduction of other Patriots. Mrs. Cochran.

is your master 7” With great presence of mind, she replied, “Gone to alarm the town.” The Tory's followers were then in the dining-room, plundering it of the plate and other valuables, and he called them together for consultation. At that moment the general threw up a window, and, as if speaking to numbers, called out, in a loud voice, “Come on, my brave fellows, surround the house and secure the villains, who are plundering.” The as: sailants made a precipitate retreat, carrying with them the three guards that were in the house, and a large quantity of silver plate. They made their way to Ballstown by daybreak, where they took General Gordon a prisoner from his bed, and with their booty returned to Canada." The bursting open of the doors of General Schuyler's house "o aroused the sleeping guards in the cellar, so who rushed up to the back hall, where they had left their arms, but they were gone. Mrs. Church,” another daughter of General Schuyler, who was there at the time, without the slightest suspicion that they might be wanted, caused the arms to be removed a short time before the attack, on account of apprehended injury to her little son, whom she found playing with them. The guards had no other weapon but their brawny fists, and these they used manfully until overpowered. They were taken to Canada, and when they were exchanged, the general gave them each a farm, in Saratoga county. Their names were John Tubbs, John Corlies, and John Ward. --> o Mrs. Cochran was the infant rescued by her intrepid sister. The incident is one of deep interest, - - A.' and shows the state of constant alarm and danger 624 % - 62.2%, co- in which the people lived at that day, particularly those whose position made them conspicuous. Mrs. Cochran kindly complied with my solicitation for a likeness of herself to accompany the narrative here given.

* Major Cochran related to me an incident connected with the booty in question. Among the plundered articles was a silver soup tureen. He was at Washington city at the time of the inauguration of Harrison, in 1841, and while in the rotunda of the Capitol, viewing Trumbull's picture of the surrender of Burgoyne, a stranger at his elbow inquired, “Who is that fine-looking man in the group, in citizen's dress?” “General Schuyler,” replied Major Cochran. “General Schuyler " repeated the stranger. “Why, I ate soup not long since, at Belleville, in Canada, from a tureen that was carried off from his house by some Tories in the Revolution.” This was the first and only trace the family ever had of the plundered articles.

* She was the wife of John B. Church, Esq., an English gentleman, who was a contractor for the French army in America under Rochambeau. He returned to England, and was afterward a member of Parliament.

[graphic]
[graphic]

Departure from Oswego. The Genesee River. • Storm on the Lake. Sea-sickness. Fort Niagara.

It was my intention to go directly from Oswego to Rome, by the plank road that traverses the old war-paths of the last century between those points, for the region westward is quite barren of incident connected with the Revolution. Old Fort Niagara, at the mouth of the Niagara River, was a place of rendezvous for Tories and Indians while preparing for marauding excursions on the borders of civilization in New York, or when they returned with prisoners and scalps. Beyond this it offered no attractions, for hardly a remnant of its former material is left. But having been joined at Oswego by another member of my family, who, with my traveling companion, was anxious to see the great cataract, and desirous myself to look again upon that wonder of the New World, I changed my course, and on a August 17, stormy morning, with a strong north wind awakening the billows of Ontario, we left * Oswego for Lewiston in the steamer Cataract, commanded by the same excellent Van Cleve whose vessel got a little entangled, ten years before, in the affair at Wind-mill Point, near Ogdensburgh. The lake was very rough, and nearly all on board turned their thoughts inwardly, conversing but little until we entered the Genesee River in the afternoon. Many lost the breakfast they had paid for, and others, by commendable abstinence and economy, saved the price of dinner by shunning it altogether. The scenery upon the tortuous course of the Genesee is very picturesque. The stream is deep and narrow, and its precipitous shores are heavily wooded. The voyage terminated three fourths of a mile below the Lower Falls of the Genesee, and five miles from Ontario. Here is the port of Rochester. The city lies upon the plains at the Upper Falls, two miles distant. Our boat remained there until toward evening, and, the rain having abated, I strolled up the winding carriage-way as far as the Lower Falls. This road is cut in the precipitous bank of the river, presenting overhanging cliffs, high and rugged, on one side, and on the other steep precipices going down more than a hundred feet below to the sluggish bed of the stream. Every thing about the falls is broken and confused. The stream, the rocks, the hills, and trees are all commingled in chaotic grandeur, varying in lineament at each step, and defying every attempt to detect a feature of regularity. There sandstone may be seen in every stage of formation, from the loose soil to shale, and slate-like lamina, and the solid stratified rock. The painter and the geologist are well rewarded for a visit to the Lower Falls of the Genesee. We descended the river toward evening. Heavy clouds were rolling over the lake; and the white caps that sparkled upon its bosom, and the spray that dashed furiously over the unfinished stone pier at the mouth of the river, betokened a night of tempest and gloom. The wind had increased almost to a gale upon the lake while we had been quietly lying in the sheltering arms of the Genesee. Premonitions of sea-sickness alarmed my prudence, and by its wise direction 1 slipped into my berth before eight o'clock, and slept soundly until aroused by the porter's bell, a little before daybreak, at Lewiston Landing. The rain continued, though falling gently. We groped our way up the slippery road to the cars, and, shivering in the damp air, took seats for Niagara, fully resolved to give the bland invitation of the “lake route” a contemptuous refusal on our return eastward. It may be very pleasant on a calm day or a moonlight night, but our experience made us all averse to the aquatic journey. We passed from Ontario into the Niagara River, seven miles below Lewiston, while slumbering, and, consequently, I have nothing to say of Fort Niagara from personal observation. We will turn to veritable history for the record, and borrow the outlines of an illustration from another pencil. In 1679, during the administration of Frontenac, a French officer named De Salle inclosed a small spot in palisades at the mouth of the Niagara River, and in 1725, two years before Governor Burnet built his fort at Oswego, a strong fortification was erected there. It was captured by the British, under Sir William Johnson, in 1759. The forces, chiefly provincials, that were sent against the fort were commanded by General Prideaux, who sailed July 7, from Oswego, and landed near the mouth of the river in July. He at once opened 177 his batteries upon the fortress, but was soon killed by the bursting of a gun. The

Attack on Fort Niagara. Stratagem of the French. Traditions respecting the Fort. A Refuge for Tories and Indians.

command then devolved upon Johnson. An army of French regulars, twelve hundred strong, drawn chiefly from western posts, and accompanied by an equal num- ber of Indians, marching to the relief of the garrison, were totally rout- ed by Johnson, and a large part of them made prisoners. The siege had then continued more than a fortnight, and the beleaguered garrison, despairing of succor, surrendered the next day. In addi- July 23, tion to the ammunition and stores that fell into their hands, 1759. the strong fort itself was an important acquisition for the English. Within its dungeons were found instruments for executions or murders. and the ears of the English received many horrid tales from the captive Indians of atrocities committed there during French rule. It is said that the messhouse, a strong building still standing within the fort, was built by the French by stratagem. The Indians were opDISTANT View of Fort NIAGARA.! posed to the erection of any - thing that appeared like a fortress. The French troops were kindly received by the savages, and obtained their consent to build a wigwam. They then induced the Indians to engage in an extensive hunt with some French officers, and when they returned the walls were so far advanced that they might defy the savages if they should attack them. It grew into a large fort, with bastions and ravelins, ditches and pickets, curtains and counter-scarp, covered way, draw-bridge, raking batteries, stone towers, bakery, blacksmith shop, mess-house, barracks, laboratory, magazine, and a chapel with a dial over its door to mark the progress of the hours. It covered about eight acres. A few rods from the barrier-gate was a burial-ground, over the portal of which was painted, in large letters, REst. The dungeon of the mess-house, called the black-hole, was a strong, dark, and dismal place, and in one corner of the room was fixed an apparatus for strangling those whom the despotic officers chose to kill. The walls were profusely inscribed with French names and mementoes in that language, and the letters and emblems were many of them so well executed as to prove that some of the victims were not of common stamp. When, in June, 1812, an attack upon the fort by the English was momentarily expected, a merchant, residing near the fort, deposited some valuable articles in the dun. geon. He went there one night with a light, and discovered his own family name upon the walls. Like other ruins, it has its local legends. The headless trunk of a French officer has been seen sitting on the margin of the well in the dungeon; and large sums of money have been buried there, and their localities pointed out by fingers visible only to moneydiggers.” During the American Revolution “it was the headquarters,” says DeVeaux, “of all that was barbarous, unrelenting, and cruel. There were congregated the leaders and chiefs of those bands of murderers and miscreants who carried death and destruction into the remote American settlements. There civilized Europe reveled with savage America, and ladies of education and refinement mingled in the society of those whose only distinction was to wield the bloody tomahawk and the scalping-knife. There the squaws of the forests were raised to eminence, and the most unholy unions between them and officers of the highest rank smiled upon and countenanced. There, in their strong-hold, like a nest of vultures, securely, for seven years, they sallied forth and preyed upon the distant settlements of the Mohawk and

* This is copied from one published in Barber and Howe's “Historical Collections of New York.” They copied it from an engraving published during the war of 1812. It gives the appearance of the locality at that time. The view is from the west side of the Niagara River, near the light-house. The fort is on the east side (the right of the picture), at the mouth of the river. The steam-boat seen in the distance is out on Lake Ontario. . * See De Veaux's Niagara Falls.

[ocr errors]
[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]

The Niagara River. Events there of the War of 1812. American Militia. Brock's Death. His Monument

Susquehanna Valleys. It was the depôt of their plunder: there they planned their forays, and there they returned to feast, until the time of action came again.” The shores of Niagara River, from Erie to Ontario, abound in historic associations con. nected with the military operations on that frontier during the war of 1812. The battles of Chippewa, Lundy's Lane, Queenston, and Fort Erie occurred in this vicinity; but these events are so irrelevant to our subject, that we must give them but brief incidental notice as we happen to pass by their localities. Fort Niagara was feebly garrisoned by the Americans, and on the 19th of December, 1813, a British force of twelve hundred men crossed the river and took it by surprise. The garrison consisted of three hundred and seventy men. The commanding officer was absent, the gates were open and unguarded, and the fortress, strong as it was, became an easy prey to the enemy. Sixty-five of the garrison were killed, and twenty-seven pieces of ordnance and a large quantity of military stores were the spoils of victory for the British. It was broad daylight when our train moved from Lewiston, and across the Niagara, on the Canada shore, the heights of Queenston, surmounted by Brock's monument, were in full view The battle that renders this towering slope so famous occurred on the 13th of October, 1812. The Americans were commanded by the late General Stephen Van Rensselaer, the British by General Sir James Brock. The former were about twenty-five hundred strong; the latter numbered about the same, besides a horde of Chippewa Indians. The British were strongly posted upon the heights. At four o'clock on the morning of the 13th about six hundred Americans, under Colonel Solomon Van Rensselaer and Lieutenant-col. onel Christie, crossed over in boats to dislodge the enemy. The passage was made in the face of a destructive fire, and the brave Americans rushed impetuously up the acclivity and attacked the first battery, captured it, and soon stood victorious upon the height from which they had driven the enemy. General Brock endeavored, in person, to rally his scattered troops, and was fatally wounded while leading them to the charge." Dismayed when they saw their leader fall, they fled in great confusion. At this time Colonel Scott,” with a reenforcement of six hundred men, regulars and volunteers, crossed over; and the enemy was also re-enforced by troops from Fort George, and five hundred Chippewa Indians. The strife was fierce for a long time. The British, re-enforced, far outnumbered the Americans, and the militia remaining at Lewiston could not be induced to cross over to support their friends in the combat. Overwhelming numbers closed in upon the Americans, and, after fighting eleven hours, they were obliged to surrender. The American loss was about ninety killed and nine hundred wounded, missing, and prisoners. The behavior of many of our militia on this occasion was extremely disgraceful. Taking advantage of the darkness when they crossed in the morning, they hid themselves in the clefts of the rocks and clumps of bushes near the shore, where they remained while the fighting ones were periling life upon the heights above. The cowards were dragged out from their hiding-places by the legs, by the British soldiers, after the surrender. The rail-road cars from Lewiston to the Falls ascend in their course an inclined plane that winds up what is evidently the ancient southern shore of Lake Ontario. Deposits of pebbles at the foot of the ridge, and many other facts connected with this physical feature of the country from Niagara to Oswego, prove conclusively, to the mind of the close observer, that this was the shore of Ontario before the great convulsion took place which formed the

1812.

' General Brock was lieutenant governor of Upper Canada. The Legislature of that province caused a monument to be erected to his memory, on the heights near the spot where he fell. It is in a position so elevated, that it may be seen at different points nearly fifty miles distant. The monument is constructed of freestone. The base, which covers the vault wherein lie the remains of General Brock and his aid, Lieutenant-colonel John M*Donald (who was killed in the same action), is twenty feet square. The shaft rises one hundred and twenty-six feet from the ground. A miscreant named Lett attempted to destroy it by gunpowder on the night of the 17th of April, 1840. The keystone over the door was thrown out, and the shaft was cracked nearly two thirds of its height.

* Now Major-general Scott, of the United States army. The present General Wool was a captain, and commanded a company in the action.

Arrival at Niagara Falls Village. View from Goat Island. Biddle's Tower. Sublime Voyage in the “Maid of the Mist."

Falls of Niagara. We leave what questions upon this point remain open, to be settled by wiser minds, and hasten on to the Falls. We caught a few glimpses of the green waters from the windows of the car, and in a few minutes were in the midst of the tumult of porters at the village, more clamorous for our ears than the dull roar of the cataract near by. The fasting upon the lake and the early morning ride had given us a glorious appetite for breakfast, and as soon as it was appeased we sallied out, guide-book in hand, to see the celebrities. These have been described a thousand times. Poets, painters, travelers, historians, philosophers, and penny-a-liners have vied with each other in magnifying this wonder, and as I can not (if I would) “add one cubit to its stature” for the credulous, a thought concerning its sublimity and beauty for the romantic, a hue to the high coloring of others for the sentimental, or a new fact or theory for the philosophical, I shall pass among the lions in almost perfect silence, and speedily leave the excitements of this fashionable resort for the more quiet grandeur and beauty of the Mohawk Valley, once the “dark and bloody ground,” but now a paradise of fertility, repose, and peace. We crossed the whirling rapids and made the circuit of Goat Island. In this route all the remarkable points of the great cataract are brought to view. From the Hog's Back, at the lower end of the island, there is a fine prospect of the river below, and the distant Canada shore beyond. The almost invisible Suspension Bridge, like a thread in air, was seen two miles distant; and beneath us, through the mist of the American Fall, glorious with rainbow hues, the little steam-boat, the “Maid of the Mist,” came breasting the powerful current. We looked down from our lofty eyrie (literally, in the clouds), through the mist veil, upon her deck, and her passengers appeared like Lilliputians in a tiny skiff. From the southern side of the island we had a noble view of the Horse-shoe Fall, over which pours the greater portion of the Niagara River. The water is estimated to be twenty feet deep upon the crown of the cataract. Biddle's Tower is a fine observatory, overlooking, on one side, the boiling abyss below the fall, and standing apparently in the midst of the rushing waters as they hurry down the rapids above. We spent two hours upon the verge of the floods, in the shadows of the lofty trees that cover the island, but these scenes were tame compared with what we beheld from the “Maid of the Mist” toward noon. We rode nearly to the Suspension Bridge, and, walking down a winding road cleft in the rocks, reached the brink of the river at the head of the great rapids above the whirlpool. There we embarked on the little steam-boat, and moved up the river to the cataract. As we approached the American Fall, all retreated into the cabins, and, the windows being closed, we were soon enveloped in spray. It was a sight indescribably grand. As we looked up, the waters seemed to be pouring from the clouds. A feeling of awe, allied to that of worship, pervaded us, and all were silent until the avalanche of waters was passed. The beautiful lines of Brainerd came vividly up from the shrine of memory, and aided my thoughts in seeking appropriate language:

“It would seem
As if God poured thee from his ‘hollow hand,”
And hung his bow upon thine awful front,
And spoke in that loud voice which seemed to him
Who dwelt in Patmos for his Savior's sake,
“The sound of many waters,’ and had bade
The flood to chronicle the ages back,
And notch his cent’ries in the eternal rocks.

Deep calleth unto deep. And what are we
That hear the question of that voice sublime?
Or what are all the notes that ever rung
From war's vain trumpet, by thy thundering side?
Yea, what is all the riot man can make
In his short life to thy unceasing roar?
And yet, bold babbler, what art thou to Him
Who drowned the world, and heaped the waters far
Above its loftiest mountains? a light wave
That breaks and whispers of its Maker's might.”

« PreviousContinue »