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Return of the invading Army. A Celebration. Arrival of the Expedition at Wyoming. The Oneidas driven from Home.
From causes not clearly understood, Sullivan did not extend his victorious march to Niagara, the head-quarters of the Tories and Indians, the breaking up of which would have been far more efficient in bringing repose to the white settlements than the achievements just accomplished; but, having desolated the Genesee Valley, he crossed the river and reseptember so traced his steps. When the army recrossed the outlet of Seneca Lake, Colonel
1779. Zebulon Butler, of Wyoming, was sent with a detachment of five hundred men, to pass round the foot of Cayuga Lake and destroy the Indian towns on its eastern shore. Lieutenant Dearborn was dispatched upon similar service along its western shore; and both corps, having accomplished their mission, joined the main body on the Chemung.' Butler had burned three towns and the capital of the Cayugas, and Dearborn had destroyed six towns and a great quantity of grain and fruit-trees. The army reached Tioga, its starting-place, on the 3d of October, where it was joined by the garrison left in charge of Fort Sullivan. Destroying that stockade, they took up their line of march on the 4th for Wyoming, where they arrived on the 7th, and pitched their tents on the former campground near Wilkesbarre. The next day a large portion of the troops left for Easton, on the Delaware, at which place they were dismissed. Thus ended a campaign before which we would gladly draw the vail of forgetfulness.
Although beaten back into the wilderness, and their beautiful country laid waste, the Indians were not conquered, and in the spring of the following year Brant and some of
Frederic Haldimand against the Oneidas was executed. Their castle, church, and villages were destroyed, and the inhabitants were driven down upon the white settlements for protection. They collected together near Schenectady, where they remained until after the war.” These, too, were particular objects for the vengeance of the hostile savages. They regarded the Oneidas as double traitors, and determined to punish them accordingly, should an opportunity offer to do so. In April, in connection with a band of Tories, the savages destroyed Harpersfield, and then marched to the attack of the Upper Schoharie Fort. On their way they captured Captain Alexander Harper and a small company who were with him, engaged in making maple sugar. Three of the yeomanry were killed, and ten made prisoners and taken to Niagara. With difficulty Brant kept his Indians from murdering them by the way. At Niagara Harper met with his niece, the daughter of Mr. Moore, of Cherry Valley, whose family, with that of Colonel Campbell, was carried into captivity in 1778. She had married a British officer named Powell, and through his exertions Captain Harper and his as: sociates were kindly treated at Niagara. But they were doomed to a long absence from home, for they were not released until the peace in 1783 opened all the prison doors.” The borders of Wyoming, and the Dutch settlements along the western frontiers of the
people of every kind. He made the spring and other seasons, and the weather suitable for planting. These he did make. But stills to make whisky to give to the Indians he did Nor make. . . . . . . The Great Spirit has ordered me to stop drinking, and he wishes me to inform the people that they should quit drinking intoxicating drinks.” * Lieutenant-colonel Hubley, an officer of the Pennsylvania line, has left an interesting account of this expedition in his Journal. He says that, on the 25th of September, the army held a celebration in testimony of their pleasure “in consequence of the accession of the King of Spain to the American alliance, and the generous proceedings of Congress in augmenting the subsistence of the officers and men.” General Sullivan ordered five of his fattest bullocks to be slaughtered, one for the officers of each brigade. In the evening, after the discharge of thirteen cannons, the whole army performed a feu de joie. Thirteen appropriate toasts were drunk. The last was as follows: “May the enemies of America be metamorphosed into pack horses, and sent on a western expedition against the Indians.” * A remnant of this tribe now occupies land in the vicinity of Rome, Oneida county, New York. * Among the Tory captors of Harper and his associates was a brute named Becraft, who boasted of having assisted in the murder of the Vrooman family in Schoharie. He had the audacity to return to Schoharie after the war. The returned prisoners, who had heard his boast, and others, informed of his presence, caught him, stripped him naked, and, tying him to a tree, gave him a severe castigation with hickory whips. They enumerated his several crimes, and then gave him a goodly number of stripes for each. On releasing him, they charged him never to come to the county again. Of course he did not.
his followers were again upon the war-path. During the winter the threat of Sir
Johnson's Incursions into the Schoharie Country. Attack on the Schoharie Forts. Boldness of Murphy.
present Ulster and Orange counties, suffered from scalping parties during the spring and summer of 1780. We have already noticed the destruction of the settlement and mills at Little Falls, on the Mohawk; also the devastation of the Canajoharie settlements and the hamlet at Fort Plain, which occurred in August of that year. The irruption of Sir John Johnson into the valley in the neighborhood of Johnstown will be considered when writing of my visit to Johnson Hall. During the autumn an extensive expedition was planned against the Mohawk and Schoharie settlements. The Indians were thirsting for revenge for the wrongs and misery inflicted by Sullivan. The leaders were Sir John Johnson, Brant, and the famous half-breed Seneca warrior, Corn Planter." The Indians rendezvoused at Tioga Point, and, ascending the Susquehanna, formed a junction at Unadilla with Sir John Johnson and his forces, which consisted of three companies of his Greens, one company of German Yagers, two hundred of Butler's Rangers, one company of British regulars, under Captain Duncan, and a number of Mohawks. They came from Montreal by way of Oswego, bringing with them two small mortars, a brass three pounder, and a piece called a grasshopper. The plan agreed upon by the invaders was, to proceed, along the Charlotte River, the east branch of the Susquehanna, to its source, thence across to the head of the Schoharie, sweep all the settlements along its course to its junction with the Mohawk, and then devastate that beautiful valley down to Schenectady. They began their march at nightfall, and before morning they had passed the Upper Fort unobserved, and were applying the torch to dwellings near the Middle Fort (Middleburgh). At daylight signal guns at the Upper Fort announced the discovery of the enemy there, but it was too late to save the property, already in flames. The proceeds of a bountiful harvest were in the barns, and stacks of hay and grain were abundant. Major Woolsey, who seems to have been a poltroon,” was the commander of the garrison at the Middle Fort, and sent out a detachment against the foe, under Lieutenant Spencer, who was repulsed, but returned to the fort without losing a man. That post was now formally invested by the enemy, and Sir John Johnson sent a flag, with a summons to surrender. The bearer was fired upon by Murphy, the rifleman already mentioned, but was unhurt; and, on his return to the camp, Johnson commenced a siege. The feeble garrison had but little ammunition, while the enemy, though well supplied, did very little execution with his own. The siege was a singular, and even ridiculous, military display. While a party of the besiegers were awkwardly trying to cast bomb-shells into the apology for a fort, the rest were valiantly attacking deserted houses and stacks of grain. Failing to make any impression, Sir John sent another flag toward noon. Murphy again fired upon the bearer, and again missed his mark. Woolsey had ordered him to desist, but Murphy plainly told his commanding officer that he was a coward, and meant to surrender the fort; and excused his breach of the rules of war in firing upon a flag by the plea that the enemy, in all his conduct, paid no regard whatever to military courtesy. The siege continued, and again a flag was sent, and was fired upon a third time by Murphy. The officers and regulars in the fort had menaced him with death if he should again thus violate the rules of war. But the militia, among whom he was a great favorite, rallied around him, and Woolsey and his men were set at defiance. At length Johnson, susPecting the garrison to be much stronger than it really was, or fearing re-enforcements might arrive from Albany, abandoned the siege, and marched rapidly down the valley, destroying
* Corn Planter now first became conspicuous. According to Stone, this chief, and the afterward more famous Red Jacket, were among the Indians at the battle of Chemung. They became rivals, and Red Jacket finally supplanted Corn Planter. Brant always despised Red Jacket, for he declared him to have acted the part of a coward during Sullivan's expedition, in trying to get the chiefs to sue for peace upon the most ignominious terms.
*Campbell, in his Annals, says, “Woolsey's presence of mind forsook him in the hour of danger. He concealed himself at first with the women and children in the house, and, when driven out by the ridicule of his new associates, he crawled around the intrenchments on his hands and knees, amid the jeers and bravos of the militia, who felt their courage revive as their laughter was excited by the cowardice of the major.”
Johnson's March to Fort Hunter. Destruction of Property. Expedition of General Van Rensselaer. Death of Colonel Brown.
with fire every thing combustible in his way. He attacked the Lower Fort, but, being re. pulsed by a shower of grape-shot and musket-balls from the garrison in the church, he continued his march down the river to Fort Hunter," at its junction with the Mohawk. Not a house, barn, or grain-stack, known to belong to a Whig, was left standing, and it was es: timated that one hundred thousand bushels of grain were destroyed by the invaders in that one day's march. The houses and other property of the Tories were spared, but the exas. perated Whigs set them on fire as soon as the enemy had gone, and all shared a common fate. Only two persons in the besieged fort were killed, but about one hundred of the inhabitants were murdered during the day. The Vroomans, a numerous family in Schoharie, suffered much, many of them being among the slain. October, Sir John remained at Fort Hunter on the 17th, and destroyed every thing be. * longing to the Whigs in the neighborhood. On the 18th he began a devastating march up the Mohawk Valley. Caughnawaga was laid in ashes, and every dwelling on both sides of the river, as far up as Fort Plain, was destroyed.” On the night of the 18th Sir John encamped with his forces near “The Nose,” and the following morning he crossed the Mohawk at Keder's Rifts,” sending a detachment of fifty men to attack a small stockade called Fort Paris, in Stone Arabia, about three miles north of the river. The main body kept in motion at the same time, and continued the work of destruction along the wide line of its march. As soon as the irruption of Johnson into the Schoharie settlement was made known at Albany, Governor George Clinton, accompanied by General Robert Van Rensselaer, of Claverack, at the head of a strong body of militia, marched to the succor of the people in Tryon county. They arrived at Caughnawaga on the 18th, while it was yet in flames; and, ascertaining that Fort Paris was to be attacked the next day, Van Rensselaer dispatched orders to Colonel Brown, then stationed there, to march out and meet the enemy. Brown promptly obeyed, and near a ruined military work, called Fort Keyser, confronted the invaders. A sharp action ensued, and the overwhelming numbers of the enemy bore down the gallant little band of Brown, who, with forty of his soldiers, was slain." The remainder of his troops found safety in flight.
* Fort Hunter was built at the mouth of the Schoharie Creek during the French and Indian war. It inclosed an edifice called Queen Anne's Chapel, to which a parsonage, built of stone, was attached. The old fort was torn down at the commencement of the Revolution, but it was afterward partially restored and often garrisoned. The chapel was demolished in 1820, to make room for the Erie Canal. The parsonage is still standing in the town of Florida, half a mile below the Schoharie, and a few rods south of the canal. * Among the many sufferers at this time was Major Jelles Fonda, from whom the present village of Fonda, near old Caughnawaga, derives its name. He was absent from home at the time, attending a meeting of the state Legislature, of which he was a member, then in session at Poughkeepsie, Dutchess county. His mansion was at a place called “The Nose,” in the town of Palatine. His wife escaped under cover of a thick fog, and on foot made her way to Schenectady. The house was burned, together with property valued at $60,000.--Antiquarian Researches, by Giles F. Yates, Esq. * Rifts are short, shallow rapids, the frequent occurrence of which in the Mohawk River makes navigation of that stream, even with bateaux, quite difficult. * Colonel Brown was a distinguished soldier in former campaigns of the Revolution in the Northern Department, as the reader has already noticed. He was born in Sandersfield, Berkshire county, Massachusetts, October 19th, 1744. He graduated at Yale College in 1771, and studied law with Oliver Arnold (a cousin of the traitor), at Providence, Rhode Island. He commenced practice at Caughnawaga, New York, and was appointed king's attorney. He soon went to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he became active in the patriot cause. He was chosen by the State Committee of Correspondence, in 1774, to go to Canada to excite rebellion, in which perilous duty he had many adventures. He was elected to Congress in 1775, but before the meeting of that body he had joined the expedition under Allen and Arnold against Ticonderoga. He assisted in the capture of Fort Chambly in the autumn of that year, and planned the attack on Montreal, which resulted so disastrously to Colonel Ethan Allen. He was at the storming of Quebec at the close of the year. The following year Congress gave him the commission of lieutenant colonel. In 1777 he conducted the expedition that attacked Ticonderoga and other posts in its vicinity, released one hundred American prisoners at Lake George, and captured quite a large quantity of provisions and stores belonging to the enemy. Soon after this he retired from the service on account of his detestation of Arnold. Three years before the latter became a traitor, Brown published a hand-bill, in which he denounced him as an avaricious and unprincipled man, charged him with “selling many a life for gain,” and predicted that he would prove a traitor, in the remarkable words with which the hand-bill closed: “Money is this man's
Pursuit of Johnson by Van Rensselaer. Inaction of the latter. Battle of Klock's Field. Capture of some Tories.
Sir John now dispersed his forces in small bands to the distance of five or six miles in each direction, to pillage the county. He desolated Stone Arabia, and, proceeding to a place called Klock's Field, halted to rest. General Van Rensselaer, with a considerable force, was in close pursuit. He had been joined by Captain MoRean, with a corps of volunteers, and a strong body of Oneida warriors, led by their principal chief, Louis Atyataronghta, whom Congress had commissioned a colonel." His whole force was now fifteen hundred strong. Van Rensselaer's pursuit was on the south side of the Mohawk, while Johnson was ravaging the country on the north side. Johnson took care to guard the ford while his halting army was resting, and the pursuers were there kept at bay. The tardy movements of Van Rensselaer, who, instead of pushing across to attack the wearied troops of the invader, rode off to Fort Plain to dine with Governor Clinton, were justly censured ; and the Oneida chief even denounced him as a Tory. This accusation, and the remonstrances of some of his officers, quickened his movements, and toward evening his forces crossed the river and were arrayed for battle. The whites of the enemy were upon a small plain partially guarded by a bend in the river, while Brant, with his Indians, occupied, in secret, a thicket of shrub oaks in the vicinity. The van of the attack was led by the late General Morgan Lewis, then a colonel. Colonel Dubois commanded the extreme right, and the left was led by Colonel Cuyler, of Albany. Captain M'Kean and the Oneidas were near the right. Johnson's right was composed of regular troops; the center, of his Greens; and his left was the Indian ambuscade. When the patriots approached, Brant raised the war-whoop, and in a few moments a general battle ensued. The charge of the Americans was so impetuous that the enemy soon gave way and fled. Brant was wounded in the heel, but escaped. Van Rensselaer's troops wished to pursue the enemy, but it was then twilight, and he would not allow it. They were ordered to fall back and encamp for the night, a movement which caused much dissatisfaction.”
God, and to get enough of it he would sacrifice his country /* This was published at Albany in the winter of 1776–7, while Arnold was quartered there. Arnold was greatly excited when told of it, called Brown a scoundrel, and declared that he would kick him whensoever and wheresoever they might meet. This declaration was communicated to Brown. The next day, Brown, by invitation, went to a dinner where he would meet Arnold. The latter was standing with his back to the fire when the former entered the door, and he and Brown thus met each other face to face. Brown walked boldly up to Arnold, and, looking him sternly in the face, said, “I understand, sir, that you have said you would kick me. I now present myself to give you an opportunity to put your threat into execution.” Arnold made no reply. Brown then said, “Sir, you are a dirty scoundrel.” Arnold was still silent, and Brown left the room, after apologizing to the gentlemen present for his intrusion.*
Colonel Brown, after he left the army, was occasionally employed in the Massachusetts service. In the fall of 1780, with many of the Berkshire militia, he marched up the Mohawk Valley, to act as circumstances might require. He was slain at Stone Arabia on his birth-day (October 19th, 1780), aged 35 years. On his way to the Mohawk country, he called upon Ann Lee, the founder of the sect of Shaking Quakers in this country, then established near Albany. He assured her, by way of pleasantry, that on his return he should join her society. A fortnight after his death two members of the society waited upon his widow, told her that her husband, in spirit, had joined “Mother Ann,” and that he had given express orders for her to become a member. She was nqi to be duped, and bade them begone. On the anniversary of Colonel Brown's death (as well as of his birth), in 1836, a monument was reared to his memory by his son, the late Henry Brown, Esq., of Berkshire, Massachusetts, near the place where he fell, in the town of Palatine. Upon the monument is the following inscription:
In memory of Colonel John Brown,
* He was a representative of three nations, for in his veins ran the blood of the French, Indian, and negro. * While some of M'Kean's volunteers were strolling about, waiting for the main army to cross, they came upon a small block-house, where nine of the enemy were in custody, having surrendered during the night. On one of them being asked how he came there, his answer was a sharp commentary upon the criminal inaction of General Van Rensselaer. “Last night, after the battle,” he said, “we crossed the river; it was dark; we heard the word “lay down your arms; some of us did so. We were taken, nine
* Stone's Life of Brant, ii., 117.
Pursuit of Johnson and Brant. Conduct of Van Rensselaer. Capture of Vrooman and his Party. Threatened invasion.
Louis and M.Kean did not strictly obey orders, and early in the morning they started off with their forces in pursuit. Johnson, with the Indians and Yagers, fled toward Onondaga Lake, where they had left their boats concealed. His Greens and the Rangers followed. Van Rensselaer and his whole force pursued them as far as Fort Herkimer, at the German Flats, and there M'Kean and Louis were ordered to press on in advance after the fugitives. They struck the trail of Johnson the next morning, and soon afterward came upon his deserted camp while the fires were yet burning. Van Rensselaer had promised to push forward to their support; but, having little confidence in the celerity of his movements, and fearing an ambuscade, Louis refused to advance any further until assured that the main body of the Americans was near. The advanced party halted, and were soon informed by a messenger that Van Rensselaer had actually abandoned the pursuit, and was then on his return march ' It was a shameful neglect of advantage, for, with proper skill and action, Johnson might have been captured at the Nose,' before Stone Arabia was desolated, or else overtaken and secured in his flight.
When Van Rensselaer heard of the concealment of Johnson's boats on the Onondaga, he dispatched a messenger to Captain Vrooman, then in command at Fort Schuyler, ordering him to go with a strong detachment and destroy them. Vrooman instantly obeyed. One of his men feigned sickness at Oneida, and was left behind. He was there when Johnson arrived, and informed him of Vrooman's expedition. Brant and a body of Indians hastened forward, came upon Vrooman and his party while at dinner, and captured the whole of them without firing a gun. Johnson had no further impediments in his way, and easily escaped to Canada by way of Oswego, taking with him Captain Vrooman and his party prisoners, but leaving behind him a great number of his own men.” Tryon county enjoyed comparative repose through the remainder of the autumn and part of the winter.
In January, 1781, Brant was again upon the war-path in the neighborhood of Fort Schuyler. The slender barrier of the Oneida nation had been broken the previous year by driving that people upon the white settlements, and the warriors from Niagara had an unimpeded way to the Mohawk Valley. They were separated into small parties, and cut off load after load of supplies on their way to Forts Plain, Dayton, and Schuyler. During the month of March two detachments of soldiers near Fort Schuyler were made prisoners, and the provisions they were guarding were captured. All the information that could be got respecting the movements of the enemy strengthened the belief that it was his determination to make another invasion of the valley, and penetrate, if possible, as far as the settlement at Schenectady, to destroy the Oneidas who had found shelter there.
Already the scarcity of provisions at Forts Schuyler and Dayton warned the people that, if supplies were not speedily obtained, those posts must be abandoned, and the whole county would thus be left open to the savages. The distress at Fort Schuyler was greatly increased by a flood early in May, which overflowed the works and destroyed considerable provisions. The damage was so great, that it was decided, at a council of officers, that the strength of May 12, the garrison was totally inadequate to make proper repairs. A few days afterward
1781, the destruction of the fort was completed by fire, the work, it was supposed, of an
incendiary. The post was then necessarily abandoned, and the garrison was marched down to Forts Dayton and Plain.
of us, and marched into this little fort by seven militia men. We formed the rear of three hundred of Johnson's Greens, who were running promiscuously through and over one another. I thought General Van Rensselaer's whole army was upon us. Why did you not take us prisoners yesterday, after Sir John ran off with the Indians and left us? We wanted to surrender.” The man was a Tory of the valley.—Set Life of Brant, ii., 123. * The Nose, or Anthony's Nose, as it is sometimes called, is a bluff at a narrow part of the Mohawk, in the town of Palatine, and derives its name from the circumstance that its form is something like that of the human nose. Here a ridge evidently once crossed the valley and kept the waters in check above, for the effects of the action of running streams and eddies are very prominent in the rocks. At the upper end of the plain below are bowlders and large gravel stones, which diminish to sand at the lower end. * Campbell's Annals.