« PreviousContinue »
A Female's Presence of Mind. Burning of the Church. Indians deceived. Tardiness of Colonel wemple.
ings, and carried off several women and children prisoners. The house of Johannes Lipe, the father of David, my informant, to a place of concealment in a hollow which is still standing, was saved from at the rear, and had made several deplunder and fire by the courage and posites there. The last time she represence of mind of his wife. She had turned she met two prowling Indians been busy all the evening carrying her at the gate. She was familiar with most valuable articles from her house their language, and, without any apparent alarm, inquired of them if they knew anything of her two brothers, who were among the Tories that fled to Canada. Fortunately, the savages had seen them at Oswegatchie, and, supposing her to be a Tory likewise, they walked off, and the house was spared. The church spire had a bright brass ball upon it, which the Indians believed was gold. While the edifice was burning, they -- waited anxiously for the steeple to fall, - . - -- that they might secure the prize. When it fell, the savages rushed forward, scattered the burning timbers, and several of them in succession seized the glittering ball. It was speedily dropped, as each paid the penalty of blistered fingers, and discovered that “all is not gold that glistens.” With the destruction of Fort Plain the devastation was, for the time, stayed. In a day the fairest portion of the valley had been made desolate. Fifty-three dwellings and as many barns were burned, sixteen of the inhabitants were slain, and between fifty and sixty persons, chiefly women and children, were made captives. More than three hundred cattle and horses were driven away, the implements of husbandry were destroyed, and the ripe grain-fields, just ready for the sickle, were laid in ashes.” The smoke was seen as far as Johnstown, and the people immediately left the fields and joined the Albany and Schenectady militia, then marching up the valley, under Colonel Wemple. The colonel seemed to be one of those men who deem prudence the better part of valor, and was opposed to forced marches, particularly when in pursuit of such fierce enemies as were just then attracting his attention. He managed to reach Fort Plain in time to see the smouldering embers of the conflagration, and to rest securely within its ramparts that night. The work of destruction was over, and the Indians and Tories were away upon another war-path. At Fort Plain I was joined by my traveling companions, whom I had left at Syracuse, and made it my headquarters for three days, while visiting places of interest in the vicinity. It being a central point in the hostile movements in Tryon county, from the time of the flight of St. Leger from before Fort Stanwix until the close of the war, we will plant our telescope of observation here for a time, and view the most important occurrences within this particular sweep of its speculum. The battle of Minisink, and the more terrible tragedy in the Valley of Wyoming, radii in the hostile operations of the Indians and Tories from our point of view, will be noticed in other chapters. It is difficult to untie the complicated knot of events here, and make all parts perspicuous, without departing somewhat from the plan of the work, and taking up the events in chronological order. Everything being subordinate to the history, I shall, therefore, make such departure for the present, and reserve my notes of travel until the story of the past is told. *This view is from the high plain on the right of the block-house, looking north. The building upon the hill across the ravine is the old parsonage, which was immediately built upon the ruins of the one that was burned. On the left I have placed a church in its proper relative position to the parsonage, as indicated by Mr. Lipe. It was about half a mile northwest of the fort. On the right are seen the Mohawk River and Plain, a train of cars in the distance, and the hills that bound the view on the north side of the Mohawk
Valley, in the direction of Stone Arabia and Klock's Field, where two battles were fought in 1780. These will be hereafter noticed * Letter of Colonel Clyde to Governor Clinton.
OLD PARsonAGE AND CHURCH.”
Aspect of Affairs in Tryon County. The western Indian. Girty and his Associates. Fidelity of white Eye
ARK and threatening was the aspect of affairs for the people of the Mohawk Valley, in the spring of 1778, the year succeeding the dispersion of St. Leger's motley force at Fort Schuyler. Brant, with his warriors, retired to Fort Niagara after that event, and during the autumn and winter he and the British and Tory leaders made extensive preparations for war the ensuing spring. Colonel Hamilton was in command at Detroit, engaged actively in endeavors to induce the tribes along the southern shores of the western lakes and the head waters of the Mississippi to join the four divisions of the Six Nations of New York' who were in alliance with the crown against the patriots. He was aided by three malignant Tories, MKee, Elliot, and Simon Girty.” They had been confined at Pittsburgh, but, escaping, they traversed the country thence to Detroit, and by proclaiming that the Americans had resolved on the destruction of the Indians, and that their only safety consisted in the immediate alliance of the Delawares and Shawnees with the soldiers of the king, aroused these tribes to a desire for war. Already they had been excited against the whites in general by the irruption into their county of Daniel Boon and others (of which I shall hereafter write), and they listened favorably to the appeal of the refugees. The expedition of M'Intosh into the Ohio Valley gave apparent confirmation to the assertions of the Tories, and Captain Pipe (the rival chief of White Eyes of the Del. awares, a fast friend of the Americans) at once assembled his warriors, and urged them to follow him immediately upon the war-path. He proclaimed every one an enemy who should speak against his proposition. But White Eyes, the beloved of all, persuaded his people to desist, and sent a message” to the Shawnees, which had the effect to keep them in check for a time. We shall consider the Indian wars in the Ohio country in detail in a future chapter. The Johnsons and Colonel John Butler were also active at this juncture upon the St. Lawrence, recruiting Tory refugees, and inducing the Caughnawagas and other tribes to take up the hatchet; and at the dawn of the year a powerful combination was in progress, which threatened the destruction of all the settlements in the Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys. Two of the Six Nations, the Oneidas and the Tuscaroras, were still faithful to their pledge of neutrality, nor were the tribes of the other four yet generally in arms. Congress, therefore, resolved to make another effort to secure their neutrality, if not a defensive alliance."
"The Mohawks, Senecas, Onondagas, and Cayugas.
* Girty was an unmitigated scoundrel, and was far more savage in his feelings than the Indians. He was present when Colonel Crawford was tortured by the Indians in 1782, and looked upon his agonies with demoniac pleasure. The same year he caused the expulsion of the peaceful Moravians, who were laboring usefully among the Wyandots; and he personally ill treated them when driven away. He instigated an Indian warrior, at the defeat of St. Clair in 1791, to tomahawk the American General Butler, who lay wounded on the field, and to scalp him, and take out his heart for distribution among the tribes. There were some Tories, even active ones, whom we can respect; but miscreants like Girty and Walter Butler, of the Mohawk Valley, present no redeeming quality to plead for excuse.
* The message was as follows: “GRAND children, Ye Shawnees: Some days ago a flock of birds [M'Kee, Elliot, and Girty], that had come on from the east, lit at Gaschoehking, imposing a song of theirs upon us, which song had nigh proved our ruin. Should these birds, which, on leaving us, took their flight toward Scioto, endeavor to impose a song on you likewise, do not listen to them, for they lie.”
*A resolution to this effect was adopted by Congress on the 2d of February, 1778. They instructed the commissioners to “Speak to the Indians in language becoming the representatives of free, sovereign, and independent states, and in such a tone as to convince them that they felt themselves so.”—Journals of Congress, iv., 63.
Council at Johnstown. Disposition of the Different Nations. Colonel Campbell and La Fayette. - Forts strengthened.
A council was called, and the chiefs of all the Six Nations were invited to attend. General Schuyler and Volkert P. Douw were appointed commissioners to attend the meeting and act in behalf of Congress. They requested Governor Clinton to send a special commissioner to be present at the council, and James Duane was accordingly appointed. The council met at Johnstown on the 9th of March. More than seven hundred Indians were present, consisting of Tuscaroras, Oneidas, and Onondagas, a small number of Mohawks, three Cayugas, but not one of the Senecas, the most powerful and warlike tribe of the confederacy. The latter not only refused to attend, but sent a message affecting great surprise that they were invited to such a council." It is not certainly known that General Schuyler was present at the meeting. La Fayette accompanied Duane, and the latter seems to have conducted the proceedings on the part of Congress. They were opened by an address from that body, charging the Indians with perfidy, cruelty, and treachery, while the conduct of the United States had been true and magnanimous toward them. An old Onondaga hypocritically acknowledged and bewailed the sins of his tribe, but charged them upon the young and headstrong warriors who had been seduced by the Tory leaders. The Mohawks and Cayugas were sullen and silent, while an Oneida chief, conscious of the faithfulness of his own tribe and of the Tuscaroras, spoke eloquently in behalf of both, concluding with a solemn assurance that the United States might rely upon their abiding friendship. Those two tribes were applauded by the commissioners, while the others were dismissed with an admonition to look well to their ways, as the arm of the United States was powerful, and vengeance might penetrate the remotest settlements of the Senecas. The council, on the whole, was unsatisfactory, for it was evident that the most warlike and important tribes, with Brant at their head, still brooded over their loss at Oriskany, and were determined on revenge. While La Fayette was at Johnstown, Colonel Samuel Campbell, of Cherry Valley, waited upon him and directed his attention to the exposed condition of that settlement and of those upon the Schoharie Creek. The people had built three slight fortifications the preceding year, but they were quite insufficient for sure protection. They were merely embankments of earth thrown up around strong stone houses, and stockaded, into which the women and children might flee for safety in the event of an invasion. They were respectively known as the Upper, Middle, and Lower Forts.” By direction of La Fayette, these were each manned by a company of soldiers, with a small brass field piece. He also directed a fort to be erected in the Oneida country, and Forts Schuyler and Dayton to be strengthened; and, as we have already noticed, Fort Plain was afterward enlarged and more strongly fortified. These and far more efficient preparations for defense were necessary; for the recovery of the Mohawk Valley, where their property was situated, was an object too important to the Johnsons, Butlers, and the large number of refugees who accompanied them to Canada, not to induce extraordinary efforts for its attainment. Their spies and scouts were out in every direction, and, at the very time of the council at Johnstown, Colonel Guy Carleton, a nephew of the Governor of Canada of the same name, was lurking in the neighborhood, to watch the actions and to report upon the dispositions of the chiefs in conclave. His employers at the same time were upon the frontiers, preparing for invasion.
* “It is strange,” said the messenger, “that while your tomahawks are sticking in our heads [referring to the battle of Oriskany], our wounds bleeding, and our eyes streaming with tears for the loss of our friends at German Flats [Oriskany], the commissioners should think of inviting us to a treaty.”—From a MS. Letter of James Duane, cited by Stone.
* These were situated in the Schoharie Valley. The Upper Fort was near the margin of Schoharie Creek, about five miles southeast of Middleburgh village, and within the limits of the present town of Fulton. The remains of the Middle Fort are still visible, near Middleburgh, on the plain east of the road leading to Schoharie. The Lower Fort was five miles north of Middleburgh, at the village of Schoharie. An old stone church (yet standing, but much altered from the original), one mile northward of the court-house, was within the intrenchments, and formed the citadel of the fort. The ramparts inclosed the two story stone house of John Becker, the kitchen part of which was, until recently, well preserved. Temporary dwellings were erected within the inclosure, and in these the inhabitants kept their most valuable things.-See Simms's Schoharie, &c., p. 269.
Settlers of Tryon County. Destruction of Springfield. M'Kean and Brant
Early in the spring, Brant and his warriors, with a large number of Tories, appear. ed at Oghkwaga, his headquarters the previous year. There he organized scalping parties and sent them out upon the borderers. The settlers were cut off in detail. Marauding parties fell upon isolated families like bolts from the clouds, and the blaze of dwell. ings upon the hills and in the valleys nightly warned the yet secure inhabitant to be on the
alert. Their dwellings were transformed into block-houses. The women were taught the use of weapons, and stood sentinels when the men were at work. Half-grown children were educated for scouts, and taught to discern the Indian trail, and every man worked armed in his field. Such was the condition of the dwellers of Tryon county during almost the whole time of the war. Brant's first hostile movement of consequence, after his return to Oghkwaga, was the destruction of a small settlement at Springfield, at the head of Otsego lake, ten miles west of Cherry Valley. It was in the month of May. Every house was burned but one, into which the women and children were collected and kept unharmed. The absence of Tories in that expedition, and the freedom to act as he pleased on the part of Brant, may account for this humanity. Several men were made captive, and, with considerable property, were carried off to Oghkwaga. In June, Captain M'Kean, at the head of some volunteers, was sent to reconnoiter Brant's encampment at Oghkwaga. M.Kean's headquarters were at Cherry Valley. On his way down the valley of the Charlotte River, he learned that large war-parties were out, and, fearing a surprise, thought it prudent to return. He halted an hour to refresh, and wrote a letter to Brant, censuring him for his predatory warfare; he intimating that he was too cowardly to show himself in open and honorable conflict, M. Kean challenged him to meet him in single combat, or with an equal number of men, to try their skill, courage, and strength; and concluded by telling him that if he would come to Cherry Valley, they would change him from a Brant to a goose." This was an injudicious movement, and, doubtless, incited
1 This letter was fastened to a stick and placed in an Indian path. It soon reached Brant, and irritated
Battle in the Schoharie Country. Arrival of Regulars. Escape of Walter Butler. Treachery of Great Tree.
the sachem, in some degree, to join Butler, a few months later, in desolating that settlement. There was an engagement on the 2d of July, on the upper branch of the Cobelskill, between a party of regular troops and Schoharie militia, fifty-two in number, and an Indian force four hundred and fifty strong. The Americans, commanded by Captain Christian Brown, were overpowered. Fourteen were killed, eight wounded, two were missing, and the remainder escaped. The dwellings were burned, and the horses and cattle, which the victors could not take with them, were slaughtered in the fields. At the same time, Colonel John Butler, who had penetrated the country from Niagara with a body of Indians and Tories, eleven hundred strong, broke into the Valley of Wyoming and laid it waste. Joya, Of this I shall write in detail hereafter. We have already considered the destruc- 1778. tion of the settlement at German Flats, toward the close of this summer. Scalping parties continued to infest the Schoharie and neighboring settlements until quite late in September, when troops from the main army checked their depredations for a while. A few days after the battle of Monmouth," Colonel William Butler, with a Pennsylvania regiment .runes. and a detachment of Morgan's rifle corps," was ordered to Tryon county, and took 1778. post at Schoharie, whence parties were sent out to chastise the white and red savages, and to protect threatened settlements. They accomplished but little, however, except in intercepting bands of Tories that were making their way from the Hudson River settlements to join Johnson at Niagara. One of these parties, collected in the vicinity of Catskill, under a Captain Smith, was dispersed, the commander killed, and several of the men made prisoners. This, and a few other exploits of a similar character, inspired the people with confidence, and they anticipated a season of repose. But it was of short duration, for already a cloud was gathering in the west, full charged with desolation. We have noticed the fact that Walter Butler, a son of Colonel John Butler, was arrested near Fort Dayton in August, 1777, tried, and condemned to death as a spy, but reprieved and sent a prisoner to Albany. He was closely confined in the jail there until the spring of 1778, when, through the interposition of his father's friends, some of them of the highest respectability, he was liberated from prison, and allowed to reside with a private family, having a single sentinel to guard him. This family proved to be Tories in disguise. The sentinel was made drunk, and young Butler, mounting a fleet horse, escaped, and joined his father at Niagara, just after the massacre of Wyoming. On his way through the Seneca country he excited the Indians, by tales of the extensive preparations which the Americans were making to penetrate and lay waste their country, and they were soon ripe for invading the white settlements. About this time a Seneca chief, called Great Tree, who was with Washington during the summer, left for his own country and nation, with the strongest professions of friendship for the Americans. He promised to use his influence in keeping the Senecas neutral, and, if unsuccessful, he was to return with his personal adherents and join the friendly Oneidas. According to his own account, he found his people in arms, and uttering loud defiance against the whites. The chiefs and principal warriors were collected at Kanadaseago and Genesee; and Great Tree, believing the stories of Butler, and finding his people very united, resolved to join his nation in chastising any whites that might penetrate their county. He was a popular orator and warrior, and his adherence gave the Senecas much joy. The Indians west of the Oneidas were thus prepared to follow a leader upon the war-path. Walter Butler obtained from his father the command of a detachment of his Rangers, and permission to employ them, with the forces of Captain Brant, in an expedition against the
him exceedingly. In a letter written soon afterward to a Tory named Cass, he said, “The people of Cherry Valley, though bold in words, will find themselves mistaken in calling me a goose.”
'Timothy Murphy, the man who shot General Fraser at Bemis's Heights, was in this detachment, and became the terror of the Indians and Tories in the Schoharie country. He used a double-barreled rifle, and the Indians, seeing him fire twice without stopping to load, supposed that he could fire as often as he pleased in the same manner.