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Violence of Loyalists. Assault upon Jacob Sammons. Caughnawaga Church. Meeting at Cherry Valley. John Johnson.
the National Council, by drawing up and obtaining signatures to a declaration disapproving of the acts of that body in the preceding autumn. This proceeding of the Tories aroused the indignation of the Whigs, who composed a considerable majority of the whites in Tryon county. Committees were appointed and public meetings were called in every district in the county. The first was held at the house of John Veeder, in Caughnawaga," where patriotic speeches were made, and a liberty pole, a most offensive object to the eyes of the Loyalists, was erected. Before this was accomplished, Sir John Johnson, accompanied by Colonel Claus, Guy Johnson, and Colonel John Butler, with a large number of their retainers, armed with swords and pistols, arrived upon the ground and interrupted the proceedings. Guy Johnson mounted a high stoop near the old church and harangued the people. He expatiated upon the strength of the king and government, and the folly of opposing the authority of the crown. He had not a conciliatory word for the people, but denounced their proceedings in virulent and abusive language, so irritating, that Jacob Sammons, a leader among the Whigs, could no longer restrain himself, but boldly pronounced the speaker a liar and a villain. Johnson leaped from his tribune and seized Sammons by the throat; one of his party felled the patriot to the ground by a blow from a loaded whip-handle, and then bestrode his body. When Sammons recovered from the momentary stupor, he hurled the fellow from him, and, springing upon his feet, stripped off his coat and prepared to fight, when he was again knocked down. Most of his Whig friends had fled in alarm, and he was carried to his father's house, “bearing upon his body the first scars of the Revolutionary contest in the county of Tryon.” A spirited Whig meeting was held soon afterward, in Cherry Valley, where the conduct of the Tories at Johnstown was strongly condemned ; but in the Palatine district and other places the threats and the known strength of the Johnsons and their friends intimidated the Whigs for a while. In the mean time, Colonel Johnson fortified the baronial hall by planting swivels around it. He paraded the militia, armed the Scotch Highlanders (who lived in the vicinity of Johnstown, and were Roman Catholics), and by similar acts, hostile to the popular movement, the suspicions of the Whigs were confirmed that he was preparing for the suppression of all patriot demonstrations in the county, and was inciting the Indians to join the enemies
Caughnawaga is the ancient name of the Indian village that stood a little eastward of the present village of Fonda. Its name signifies coffin, and was given to the place in consequence of there being in the Mohawk, opposite the village, a black stone (still to be seen) resembling a coffin, and projecting above the surface at low water.—Historical Collections of New York, p. 281. * This old church, now (1848) known as the Fonda Academy, under the management of Rev. Douw Van Olinda, is about half a mile east of the court-house, in the village of Fonda. It is a stone edifice, and was erected in 1763 by voluntary contributions. Sir William Johnson contributed liberally. Its first pastor was Thomas Romayne, who was succeeded in 1795 by Abraham Van Horn, one of the earliest graduates of King's (now Columbia) College, in the city of New York. He was from Kingston, Ulster county, and remained its pastor until 1840. During his ministry he united in marriage 1500 couples. The church was without a bell until the confiscated property of Sir John Johnson was sold in the Revolution, when the dinner-bell of his father was purchased and hung in the steeple. The bell weighs a little more than one hundred pounds, and bears the following inscription: “S. R. William Johnson, baronet, 1774. Made by Miller and Ross, in Eliz. Town.”—Simms's Schoharie County, &c. Over the door of the church is a stone tablet, with this inscription in Dutch: “Komt laett ons op gaen tot den Bergh des Heeren, to den huyse des godes Jacobs, op dathy onsleere van syne wegen, en dat wy wandel in syne paden.” English, “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord; to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” * Stone's Life of Brant, i., 53.
attempted Removal of Mr. Kirkland. Hostile Movements of the Johnsons. Indian Councils. Rev. Samuel Kirkland.
of liberty as soon as actual hostilities should commence." Another circumstance confirmed these suspicions. Brant was the secretary of Colonel Guy Johnson, the superintendent of Indian affairs after the death of Sir William, and his activity in visiting the tribes and holding secret conferences with the sachems was unceasing. Suddenly his former friendly intercourse with Mr. Kirkland, the faithful Christian missionary, was broken off in 1774, and, at Brant's instigation, an Oneida chief preferred charges against the pious minister to Guy Johnson, and asked for his removal. It was well known that Mr. Kirkland was a Whig." and this movement of the wily sachem could not be misinterpreted. But the Oneida nation rallied in support of the minister, and his removal was for a time delayed. During the summer of 1775 the Johnsons were very active in winning the Six Nations from their promises of neutrality in the coming contest.” A council of the Mohawks was held at Guy Park in May, - at the council, but the result which was attended by - was unsatisfactory to both pardelegates from the Albany and ties. The delegates, cognizant the Tryon county Committees. of the disaffection and bad faith Little Abraham, brother of the of the Indians, could not rely famous Hendrick who was kill- upon their present promises; ed near Lake George, was the and Guy Johnson, alarmed by principal chief of the Mohawks, the events at Lexington and and their best speaker on the oc- Concord, and by intimations casion. Guy Johnson, the In- Guy Parak.” which he had received that his dian agent, was in attendance person was in danger of seizure by order of the General Congress, broke up the council abruptly, and immediately directed the assembling of another at the Upper Castle, on the German Flats, whither himself and family, attended by a large retinue of Mohawks, at once repaired. But this council was not held, and Johnson, with his family and the Indians, pushed on to Fort Stanwix. His sojourn there was brief, and he moved on to Ontario, far beyond the verge of civilization. Brant and the Butlers attended him, and there a large council was held, composed chiefly of Cayugas and Senecas. Thus far no positive acts of hostility had been committed by Guy Johnson and his friends, yet his design to alienate the Indians and prepare them for war upon the patriots was undoubted. His hasty departure with his family to the wilderness, accompanied by a large train of Mohawk warriors, and the holding a grand council in the midst of the fierce Cayu
* See letter of the Palatine Committee to the Committee of Safety at Albany, dated May 18th, 1775. * Samuel Kirkland was son of the pious minister, Daniel Kirkland, of Norwich, Connecticut. He learned the language of the Mohawks, was ordained a missionary to the Indians at Lebanon in 1766, and removed his wife to the Oneida Castle in 1769. The next spring he removed to the house of his friend, General Herkimer, near Little Falls, where his twin children were born, one of whom was the late Dr. Kirkland, president of Harvard College. The very air of Norwich seemed to give the vitality of freedom to its sons, and Mr. Kirkland early imbibed those patriotic principles which distinguished him through life. His attachment to the republican cause was well known, and, after the battles of Lexington and Concord, the provincial Congress of Massachusetts, desirous of securing either the friendship or neutrality of the Six Nations, sent a letter to him inclosing an address to the Indians, and requesting him to use his influence in obtaining the ends in view. Mr. Kirkland succeeded in securing the attachment of the Oneidas to the patriot cause, and continued his religious labors among them during the war, when the other tribes, through the influence of Brant and the Johnsons, had taken up arms for the king. He officiated as chaplain to the American forces in the vicinity of his labors, and accompanied Sullivan in his expedition in 1779. The state of New York, in consideration of his patriotic services, gave him the lands of the “Kirkland patent,” in the town of Kirkland. After 40 years' service for his God and country, he fell asleep at Paris, Oneida county, on the 28th of March, 1808, in the 67th year of his age. * General Schuyler had held a conference with the chiefs of the Six Nations during the previous winter, and, setting before them the nature of the quarrel that had led to hostile movements, received from them solemn promises that they would remain neutral. * This was the residence of Guy Johnson, and is still standing, on the north side of the Mohawk, about a mile smom the village of Amsterdam, in Montgomery county. It is substantially built of stone, and may stand a century yet. Embowered in trees, it is a beautiful summer residence.
Alarm of the People of the Mohawk Valley. Sir John Johnson and Highlanders. Orders to General Schuyler.
gas and Senecas, greatly alarmed the people of the lower valley,' inasmuch as his reply to a letter from the Provincial Congress of New York, which he wrote from the council- mys, room in the wilderness, glowed with sentiments of loyalty. It was, moreover, posi- 1775. tively asserted that he was collecting a large body of savages on that remote frontier, to fall upon the inhabitants of the valley, and this belief was strengthened by the fact that Sir John Johnson, who held a commission of brigadier general of militia, remained at Johnson Hall, then fortified and surrounded by a large body of Loyalists. The alarmed patriots appealed to the Committee of Safety at Albany for protection, and every preparation was made to avert the threatened disaster. Guy Johnson, however, did not return to the valley, but went to Oswego, where he called another council, and then, accompanied by a large number of chiefs and warriors of the Six Nations, among whom was Brant, departed for Canada. He descended the St. Lawrence to Montreal, where he met Sir Guy Carleton and Sir Frederic Haldimand, then governor of Canada, with whom the Indians entered into a formal agreement to take up arms for the king.” These were the Indians who appeared against the Americans at St. John's, on the Sorel, and who, in connection with some Caughnawagas, made the terrible massacre of Major Sherburne's corps at the Cedars in the following spring, noticed in a previous chapter. These movements of the Johnsons and their friends, the strengthening of Johnson Hall, the military organization of the Scotch Highlanders in the vicinity, the increasing alienation of the Indians, the boldness of the Tories, and the continual alarm of the people of Tryon county, caused the General Congress, in December, 1775, to take active measures in that direction. The Dutch and Germans in the Mohawk Valley, Schoharie, Cherry Valley, and, indeed, in all parts of that extensive country, were ardent Whigs; and the Highlanders, with the retainers of the Johnsons and their friends, composed the bulk of the Tory population, except a few desperate men who looked for plunder and reward. Had these alone been inimical to the patriots, there would have been little alarm; but the country swarmed with Indians, who were hourly becoming more and more hostile to the Whigs, through the influence of the Johnsons and their powerful ally, Joseph Brant. It was also reported that military stores were collected at Johnson Hall, and that three hundred Indians were ready to fall upon the whites when Sir John Johnson should give the signal. Congress, therefore, ordered General Schuyler (who had returned to Albany from Lake Champlain, on account of ill health) to take such measures as he should think proper to seize the military stores, to apprehend the Tory leaders, and to disarm the loyal inhabitants. He had no troops at command, but, aided by the Albany Committee of Safety, he soon mustered seven hundred men and marched to Schenectady. The Mohawks of the “Lower Castle” (near Amsterdam), with Little Abraham at their head, had not been seduced by Brant and Johnson, but kept to their promise to remain neutral. To preserve their good-will, Schuyler sent to them a messenger (Mr. Bleecker, the Indian interpreter, then residing at Albany) with a January 15, belt, informing them of the object of his expedition. They were not pleased with the idea of invasion, and a deputation was sent to the general to persuade him to desist. He conferred with them at Schenectady, satisfied them of his good intentions and the necessity of the movement, and then marched on as far as Guy Park. He dispatched a letter at the same time to Sir John Johnson, requesting a personal interview with him. They met at Guy Park in a friendly way, and General Schuyler proposed terms by
* On the 11th of July, Colonel Herkimer wrote from Canajoharie to the Palatine Committee, that he had received credible intelligence that morning that Johnson was ready to march back upon the settlement with a body of 800 or 900 Indians, and that his point of attack would be just below the Little Falls. This intelligence proved to be untrue.
*British historians assert that General Carleton was averse to the employment of the savages against the Americans. Mr. Stone, in his Life of Brant, quotes from a speech of that chief, wherein the reverse is asserted. The British commanders never failed to employ Indians in warfare, when their services could be obtained. Their feelings of humanity doubtless revolted when coalescing with the savages of the forest to butcher their brethren, but with them principle too often yielded to erpediency in that unrighteous war.
Disarming of the Tories at Johnson Hall. Perfidy of Sir John Johnson. His Flight. Royal Greens.
which the matter might be settled without bloodshed. He demanded the immediate sur. render of all arms, ammunition, and stores in the possession of Johnson, the delivery to him of all the arms and military accouterments held by the Tories and Indians, and Sir John's parole of honor not to act inimically to the patriot cause. Sir John asked twenty-four hours for consideration. His reply was unsatisfactory, and Schuyler marched on to Caughnawaga, within four miles of Johnstown. The militia had turned out with alacrity, and his force of seven hundred men had increased to three thousand. Sir John, alarmed, acceded to all the terms proposed by General Schuyler, and the next day that officer proceeded to Johnson Hall, where arms and other munitions of war were surrendered by the baronet. About three hundred Scotchmen also delivered up their arms. Colonel (afterward General) Herkimer was empowered to complete the disarming of the Tories, and General Schuyler and his forces marched back to Albany. It soon afterward became evident that what Sir John had promised when constrained by fear would not be performed when the cause of that fear was removed. He violated his parole of honor, and the Highlanders began to be as bold as ever in their opposition to the Whigs. Congress thought it dangerous to allow Johnson his liberty, and directed Schuyler to seize his person, and to proceed vigorously against the Highlanders in his interest. Colonel Dayton was intrusted with the command of an expedition for the purpose, and in May he proceeded to Johnstown. The baronet had friends among the Loyalists in Albany, by whom he was timely informed of the intentions of Congress. His most valuable articles were put in an iron chest and buried in his garden' when he heard of Dayton's approach, and, hastily collecting a large number of his Scotch tenants and other Tories, he fled to the woods by the way of the Sacandaga, where it is supposed they were met by Indians sent from Canada to escort them thither.” Amid perils and hardships of every kind, they traversed the wilderness between the head waters of the Hudson and the St. Lawrence, and, after nineteen days' wanderings, arrived at Montreal. Sir John was immediately commissioned a colonel in the British service, raised two battalions of Loyalists called the Johnson Greens, and became one of the bitterest and most implacable enemies of the Americans that appeared during the war. He afterward, as we shall observe, scourged the Mohawk Valley with fire and sword, and spread death and desolation among the frontier settlements even so far south as the Valley of Wyoming. After the flight of Johnson and the Tories, Tryon county enjoyed a short season of repose, and nothing of importance occurred during the remainder of 1776 and the winter of 1777. Yet the people did not relax their vigilance. The Declaration of Independence was received by them with great joy, but they clearly perceived that much was yet to be done to support that declaration. Congress, too, saw the importance of defending the Northern and Western frontiers of New York from the incursions of the enemy and their savage allies. The fortresses on Lake Champlain were already in their possession, and General Schuyler was ordered to repair and strengthen old Fort Stanwix, then in ruins, and to erect other fortifications, if necessary, along the Mohawk River. Colonel Dayton was charged with the duty
* Sir John had a faithful black slave, to whom he intrusted the duty of burying his iron chest. Colonel Wolkert Weeder bought the slave when Johnson Hall was sold, but he would never tell where the treasure was concealed. Sir John visited the Mohawk Valley in 1780, recovered his slave, and by his directions found the iron chest.—Simms.
* This is inferred from a sentence in one of Brant's speeches, quoted by Mr. Stone, as follows: “We then went in a body to a town then in possession of the enemy, and rescued Sir John Johnson, bringing him fearlessly through the streets.” Brant and Guy Johnson were both in England at that time.
Lady Johnson was conveyed to Albany, and there kept for some time, as a sort of hostage for the good conduct of her husband. Among the articles left in Johnson Hall was the family Bible of Sir William. When the confiscated property was sold, the Bible was bought by John Taylor, who was afterward Lieutenant-governor of New York. Perceiving that it contained the family record of the Johnsons, Mr. Taylor wrote to Sir John, offering its restoration. A rude messenger was sent for the Bible. “I have come for Sir William's Bible,” he said, “and there are the four guineas which it cost.” The man was asked what message Sir John had sent. He replied, “Pay four guineas and take the book.”—Stone's Life of Brant. ii., 145.
Repairs of Fort Stanwix. Brant at Oghkwaga. His hostile Movements. Expeditions of Herkimer and of Colonel Harper.
of repairing Fort Stanwix, with the assistance of the Tryon county militia, but he seems to have made little progress, for it was not complete when, in the summer of the next year, it was invested by St. Leger. He named the new fortress Fort Schuyler, in honor of the commanding general of the Northern Department, and by that appellation it was known through the remainder of the war.” In the course of the spring of 1777, Brant came from Canada, and appeared among the Mohawks at Oghkwaga,” or Oquaca, with a large body of warriors. He had not yet committed any act of hostility within the borders of New York, nor was his presence at the Cedars known in the Mohawk Valley. Yet none doubted his hostile intentions, and his presence gave much uneasiness to the patriots, while the Tories became bolder and more insolent. In June his intentions became more manifest, when he ascended the Susquehanna, from Oghkwaga to Unadilla, with about eighty of his warriors, and requested an interview with the Rev. Mr. Johnstone, of the “Johnstone Settlement.” He declared that his object was to procure food for his famished people, and gave the whites to understand that, if provisions were not furnished, the Indians would take them by force. Mr. Johnstone sounded Brant concerning his future intentions, and the chief, without reserve, told him that he had made a covenant with the king, and was not inclined to break it. The people supplied him with food, but the marauders, not satisfied, drove off a large number of cattle, sheep, and swine. As soon as the Indians had departed, not feeling safe in their remote settlement, the whites abandoned it, and took refuge in Cherry Valley. Some families in the neighborhood of Unadilla fled to the German Flats, and others to Esopus and Newburgh, on the Hudson River. As the Indian forces were constantly augmenting at Oghkwaga, it was determined by General Schuyler and his officers, in council, that Herkimer (now a brigadier) should repair thither and obtain an interview with Brant. Herkimer took with him three hundred Tryon county militia, and invited Brant to meet him at Unadilla. This the chief agreed to. In the mean while, Colonel Van Schaick marched with one hundred and fifty men as far as Cherry Valley, and General Schuyler held himself in readiness to repair to Unadilla if his presence should be needed. These precautions seemed necessary, for they knew not what might be the disposition of Brant. It was a week after Herkimer arrived at Unadilla before Brant made his appearance. He came accompanied by five hundred warriors. He dispatched a runner to Herkimer to inquire the object of his visit.” Herkimer replied that he came to see and converse with
* This change in the name of the fort, from Stanwix to Schuyler, produced some confusion, for there was already an old fort at Utica called Fort Schuyler, so named in honor of Colonel Peter Schuyler, a commander of provincial troops in the war with the French and Indians.
*Toward the close of the winter of 1777 a large gathering of Indians was held at Oghkwaga. The Provincial Congress of New York dispatched thither Colonel John Harper, of Harpersfield, to ascertain their intentions. He arrived on the 27th of February, and was well received by the Indians. They expressed their sorrow for the troubles that afflicted Tryon county, and gave every assurance of their pacific dispositions. Colonel Harper believed them, and gave them a feast by roasting an ox. It was afterward discovered that all their friendship was feigned; their professions of peaceful intentions were gross hypocrisy. A few weeks subsequently, while taking a circuit alone through the woods near the head waters of the Susquehanna, Harper met some Indians, who exchanged salutations with him. He recognized one of them as Peter, an Indian whom he had seen at Oghkwaga, but they did not know him. His great-coat covered his uniform, and he feigning to be a Tory, they told him they were on their way to cut off the Johnstone settlement on the east shore of the Susquehanna, near Unadilla. Colonel Harper hastened back to Harpersfield, collected fifteen stout and brave men, and with them gave chase to the marauders. In the course of the following night they came upon the Indians in the valley of Charlotte River. It was almost daylight when their waning fires were discovered. The savages were in a profound slumber. Their arms were silently removed, and then each man of Harper's party, selecting his victim, sprang upon him, and before he was fairly awake the savage found himself fast bound with cords which the whites had brought with them. It was a bolder achievement than if the red men had been killed, and nobler because bloodless. When the day dawned, and the Indians saw their captors, Peter exclaimed, “Ugh Colonel Harper! Why didn't I know you yesterday?” They were taken to Albany and surrendered into the hands of the Committee of Safety.
* The real object of the conference is not known. It is supposed that, as Herkimer and Brant had been near neighbors and intimate friends, the former hoped, in a personal interview, to persuade the chief to join