History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Life and Times of
Sir William Johnson, Bart.,
by William L. Stone
Albany: J. Munsell, 78 State Street, 1865.
Chapter IX. 1748.
Colonel Johnson had now become, through his own tact and the influence of Governor Clinton, a prominent man in the affairs of the colony. In February, he accepted the command of the New York colonial troops for the defence of the frontiers-a circumstance which affords another proof of the high favor in which he was held by the governor. Though still continuing the frame in furs, and by no means neglecting his mercantile pursuits, he devoted himself more assiduously, not only to political matters, but also to the management of the Indian department over which he had for the last two years had the control. Becoming favorably known both to the colony and the British government, he now assumed, as better suited to his improved standing, more dignity in his appointments, his manner of living, and his intercourse with the Indians.
It was about this period, although I have not been able to learn the exact date, that Colonel Johnson employed as his housekeeper, Mary Brant, or Miss Molly, as she was called, a sister of the celebrated Indian chief Thayendanegea, with whom he lived until his decease, and by whom he had several children.(1) This circumstance is thus mentioned
(1) That Molly Brant was not the wife of the Baronet, is fully proved by his last will, (published in appendix to vol. ii.) in which, after desiring to have the "remains of his beloved wife Catherine," interred beside him, he speaks of the "children of my present housekeeper, Mary Brant," as his "natural children." It is, however, but justice to Molly Brant, to state that she always regarded herself as married to the Baronet after the Indian fashion.
The traditions of the Mohawk valley state that the acquaintance of Colonel Johnson with Molly, had a rather wild and romantic commencement. The story was, that she was a very sprightly and a very beautiful Indian girl of about sixteen, when he first saw her. It was at a regimental militia muster, where Molly was one of a multitude of spectators. One of the field officers coming near her upon a prancing steed, by way of banter she asked permission to mount behind him. Not supposing she could perform the exploit, he said she might. At the word she leaped upon the crupper with the agility of a gazelle. The horse sprang off at full speed, and, clinging to the officer, her blanket flying, and her dark tresses streaming in the wind, she flew about the parade ground swift as an arrow, to the infinite merriment of the collected multitude. The colonel, who was a witness of the spectacle, admiring the spirit of the young squaw, and becoming enamored of her person, brought her to his house.
by Mrs. Grant in her entertaining book. "Becoming a widower in the prime of life, he connected himself with an Indian maiden, daughter to a sachem, who possessed an uncommonly agreeable person and good understanding; and whether ever formally married to him according to our usage or not, continued to live with him in great union and affection all his life." Colonel Johnson himself repeatedly speaks of this Indian lady in his private journal. During his expedition to Detroit entries occur in which he speaks of having received news from home, and of having written to Molly. He always mentioned her kindly. Thus under date of Wednesday, October 21st, 1759, he writes:
"Met Sir Robert Davis and Captain Etherington, who gave me a packet of letters from General Amherst. Captain Etherington told me Molly was delivered of a girl and all were well at my house, where they stayed ten days."
Molly, as has already been stated, was the sister of Thayendanegea, and both, according to the account in the London Magazine of 1776, the earliest printed testimony upon the subject, were the grandchildren of one of the Mohawk chiefs, who visited England half a century before. That her father was a chief, several authorities have likewise been cited to show; to which may be added Allen's Biographical Dictionary, where the fact is positively asserted.(1)
By thus forming an alliance with the family of an influential and powerful chieftain, Colonel Johnson evidently aimed at a more extended influence over the Indians. Nor did the result disappoint him; for in this alliance and in his custom of mingling among them in. his familiar way, is doubtless to be found the secret of his extraordinary ascendancy over the fickle red men of the forest.
(1) President Allen was connected by marriage with the family of the late President Wheelock, and has had excellent opportunities for arriving at the probably truth.
Meantime a new assembly had been chosen, which the governor met upon the twelfth of February. The election, however, had made but few changes in the composition of that body; all the former leaders being returned, and Mr. Jones consequently again presented for his excellency's approbation as speaker. The opening speech of the governor was conciliatory. He announced that the convention agreed upon between the commissioners of New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut, had been ratified by the first and last mentioned of those colonies, and by the legislature of Massachusetts, with the exception of a single article, which his excellency did not conceive to be very material. The place of the cordon of rangers provided for by that article, the governor thought, could be supplied by strong parties of Indians. Notwithstanding the abortive effects of the two preceding years to achieve the invasion of Canada, and the strangely vacillating conduct of the ministry upon this important subject, measures to that end were again proposed, and the necessary means suggested, with as much confidence as though there had been no disappointment. The disbanding of the forces at Albany had necessarily discouraged the Indians, who had regarded the measure as a want either of courage or strength, and the French had not been slow to avail themselves of the opportunity again to sow the seeds of disaffection among them particularly the Senecas and Onondagas. Measures were therefore advised for regaining the hearty cooperation of their people. The death of Mr. Bleecker, long the government interpreter in its intercourse with the Indians, and the appointment of Arent Stevens in his place was announced. The government was indebted to Colonel Johnson for various advances of money, and he had given notice that such was the increased cost of provisioning the garrison of Oswego, that he could no longer perform that service without an advance upon the terms of his contract of two hundred pounds per annum. The fortifications of Albany needed repairs, and several of the forts were short of ammunition. The attention of the assembly was also called to the fact that no provision had been made at the last session for paying the salaries of the officers of the government. Other suggestions connected with the public service were made in the speech, one of which was the employment of a smith for the benefit of the Indians at Oswego. Finally he recommended that they should make immediate provision for rewarding those Indians who had acted as scouts for transporting the new levies to Albany, victualing them in the Mohawk's country, removing cannon from Saratoga to Albany, and also for the salary of a commanding officer to the troops raised by the province.
It would appear that the dissolution of the assembly had for a time, at least, produced a better state of feeling in the new assembly than in the previous one. The answer of the council was moved by Chief Justice DeLancey; that of the assembly was reported by Mr. Clarkson; and both were conceived in a better spirit, and couched in much more respectful language than had been usual for some time past. In the address of the house to the governor upon the eighteenth, the assembly assured his excellency of their readiness to enter immediately upon the consideration of the different matters which he had submitted to them, and to make provision for such supplies as were essential to the well being and security of the colony. Two days afterward, however, as if they feared that they had conceded too much, and wished therefore to counteract it by thwarting the favorite scheme of the governor, the committee of the whole on his speech, reported it as their opinion, that to follow out the plan proposed by Massachusetts, would be contrary to the purposes of the agreement, and therefore that the house ought not to accede to the alteration.
The temper of the assembly, however, as before remarked, was much more tractable; and at this sitting, several resolutions were passed in favor of repairing the different fortifications along the frontiers, stationing a larger garrison at Oswego, defraying the expenses of the gunsmiths stationed among the Indians, paying the rangers employed as scouts, building block houses, and other plans of a like character. Two hundred pounds were also voted to Colonel Johnson, for the extraordinary charges to which he had been subjected in supplying the garrison of Oswego with provisions, and an appropriation made for the payment of the salaries of the officers of the government, but to which was attached " a reward of one hundred and fifty pounds to Mr. Horsmanden, for his late controversial labors, under the pretext of drafting their bills, and other public service."(1)
The most important act of the session, however, was an appropriation of two hundred pounds per annum for the compensation of an agent, to reside in the parent capital, to solicit in the concerns of the colony. The appointment of such an agent had been previously recommended; and though successful at last by a unanimous vote, it might not have been, but from the design of the house to employ an agent who should be under its own direction, and whose office, at least in part, should be to thwart the views -of the governor at home. The enactment was so shaped as cautiously to deprive the governor even of a concurrent power in making the appointment; and indeed the agent, Robert Charles, was named and his first instructions actually given, a few hours before the house was summoned into the presence of the governor to witness, previous to the adjournment, his assent to the bills that had been passed. These instructions are in part inscribed upon the journals of the assembly; while another portion may be found in
(1) Journals of the colonial assembly, Smith Hist. New York.
the appendix to the second volume of Smith, being a letter to Charles from the speaker, Jones. They will be found to sustain the opinion already advanced, viz: that the agent was to be the instrument of the assembly against the governor.
This course of action has been attributed to a desire on the part of the DeLancey family to supplant Mr. Clinton with the view of bringing Sir Peter Warren into the executive chair; and color is given to the suggestion by the fact that Mr. Charles was enjoined "in the execution of his instructions, always to take the advice of Sir Peter Warren if in England."(1) DeLancey, the chief justice, was likewise ambitious; and it is not unlikely that he might have cherished such a design in favor of his brother-in-law; but I have found no evidence that Sir Peter Warren himself was a party to any such intrigue. Why should he have been? The measure of his naval glory was full. He was now a member of the imperial parliament, in the enjoyment of a princely estate, and withal in a bad state of health. The governorship of the colony of New York, therefore, could have been no object with him, even should he be able to compete with success against the Newcastle interest by which Mr. Clinton was sustained.
Meanwhile the Indians of the Six Nations, true to their wavering character, upon hearing that the expedition against Canada had been given up, had become exceedingly discontented. Added to this, an express arrived at New York on the seventeenth of February, bearing advices to the governor from Colonel Johnson of an alarming nature. Intelligence had been recently brought in by scouts, so Johnson wrote, that an expedition was fitting out in Canada against the settlements, but whether the blow was to fall upon Albany, Schenectady, or the Mohawks, could not be ascertained. Advices were also received on the twenty-second, from Lieutenant Lindesay, the commanding officer
(1) Letter of Speaker Jones to Mr. Charles, April 9th, 1748.
at Oswego, stating that his scouts reported that a French army was marching to attack that post. The whole country, but especially the border, was kept in a state of great terror for several days. Nor was the panic confined to the sparsely peopled settlements. It extended to Albany, and so great was the fear of the inhabitants, that Colonel Schuyler ordered into the city for its defence, several companies of the militia, who were quartered in the neighboring districts.(1) While affairs were in this harassing state, Colonel Johnson wrote to Governor Clinton that the governor of Canada, through the instrumentality of the Jesuit missionaries, was pressing upon the Six Nations warm invitations to visit him in Montreal, and by every means in his power was endeavoring to seduce those Indians from their alliance with the English. Nor had these artifices been entirely without effect, for the Indiana, especially the Onondagas, were already wavering, and were even now manifesting alarming symptoms of defection.
In this exigency, the governor, at the suggestion of Shirley, immediately wrote to Colonel Johnson, directing him to proceed forthwith into the Indian country attended by a strong guard. The note of preparation for this visit is given in the following letter:
Colonel Johnson to Captain Catherwood-(Extract.)
" ALBANY, April 9, 1748.
" * * * * l am so much hurried with settling my affairs before I go, that I declare I have not time to write a line. I intend to set off next Thursday from my house, with a guard of fifty men, Captain Thomas Butler, and Lieutenant Laurie, officers. We shall have a fatiguing journey of it, and I reckon pretty dangerous; for I am informed by Hendrik's son, that the French at Cadaracqui, having heard of my intention by Jean Coeur, were quite uneasy at the news, and said they would prevent it- an
(2) Manuscript letter Colonel Schuyler to Governor Clinton.
attempt which I think very likely, as it would be of great consequence to them. The worst of it is, we must march for above one hundred miles on foot to go through all their castles by the way, in order to talk to some of the most obstinate of them privately before the meeting, which is the only way I could ever find to gain a point with this sort of,people. I reckon I shall have a great deal of trouble to overset all that the French have been doing since last fall. However, I shall leave no stone unturned to accomplish what I go at, either by fair or foul means, for if they are obstinate,-I mean the Onondagas,-I shall certainly talk very harsh to them, and try what that will do. I hope to return in about three weeks, (if nothing extraordinary happens,) when I trust I shall be able to give his excellency, an agreeable account of my progress. I also hope his excellency will not omit writing to me if anything of consequence occurs. It will be the time to hear good news when among them all,-especially of an expedition going on, which would cheer up all their drooping spirits. If the governor and Governor Shirley intend to come soon, it would be very proper to give me timely notice, in order to prepare the Indians for a meeting. I hope the assembly will not be so unconscionable as to expect I should take the command of these companies without a salary. But I leave that, and the affair of the regiment entirely to his excellency and you, to do as you think proper against I come back. As to the latter, I assure you it is in a bad way, as also is the watch of Albany."
The orders given to Colonel Johnson were, to erect forts for the protection of the Indian women and children; , and by the judicious distribution of presents, to arrest this defection, and thus counteract the insidious influence of the Jesuit priests. The governor farther directed him " to keep the Indians with some Christians continually engaged in skirmishing and in hostile acts against the enemy," hoping that in this manner the Indians might be led to forget their disappointment.(1) But these were not the only objects aimed at in this journey. Colonel Johnson was moreover particularly instructed to ascertain the temper of the Six Nations towards the English, and if possible persuade their sachems to attend a grand council to be held shortly at Albany at a time not as yet designated.
Upon the reception of these orders, a council of all the chiefs and warriors of the Six Nations was summoned by Colonel Johnson to meet him around the central council, fire at Onondaga; and it appears to have been pretty well attended. Whatever of doubt or distrust, moreover, the colonel might have previously entertained as to his probable reception, he certainly had no cause of complaint upon that head. Being the bearer of presents to a considerable amount, in goods and provisions, which were necessarily transported by bateaux, his advance was slow. Indeed the assemblage at Onondaga, had been well nigh dissolved the day before his arrival, from sheer hunger. But the colonel was well received at all the castles on the route, and his arrival at Onondaga, on the twenty-fourth of April, was greeted by the display of English colors and a salute of firearms, which was returned by his guards. He was attended by the principal chiefs to a large house prepared for his reception, spread with new mats, and three others of their bark houses, were appropriated to his attendants. In about an hour afterwards all the sachems of the Confederacy waited upon the colonel in a body, and welcomed him in a general speech, delivered by an Onondaga sachem named Gan-ugh-sa-dea-gah,- " thanking the Great Spirit that he had been spared to come among them at this bloody time." They apologized for the "miserable poor condition" in which he had found them, owing to the fact that by the directions of the English they had now been kept two years from their hunting, in the expectation of being employed upon the
(1) Manuscript letter from Governor Clinton to Colonel Johnson.
warpath,-"and that" said the sachem, "all for nothing, as we see no sign of your doing anything with your army as we expected." They had now assembled, pursuant to a belt which he had sent them, "in their present hungry, condition having nothing to eat," to hear what he had to say, and to thank him for the supplies they had brought, "although the day before," being quite out of patience and hungered, "they had resolved to break up and go home." Colonel Johnson thanked them for the kind welcome they had given him, but being too much fatigued to enter upon business then, he deferred them until the next day, adding-" So I hope you will be easy in your minds, and content yourselves so long, and I will this night provide a feast for your sachems, and another for the warriors and dancers, who I hope will be merry, as it will be my greatest pleasure to see them and make them so."
On the following- day the colonel met them in grand council, and imparted the business which had called him thither in a general speech, prepared after the usual pattern of Indian diplomacy. He told them that he had found in some of the old writings of our forefathers which were thought to have been lost, an old and valuable record, containing an account of the manner in which the first friendship between their respective ancestors had commenced on the arrival of " the first great canoe" at Albany. As that canoe contained many things that pleased the Indians, they resolved to tie it fast to the strongest tree on the bank of the river, by a great rope, that the greatest care might be taken of it. But on farther consideration, fearing that the tree might be blown down, it was thought safest to make a long rope and tie it fast at Onondaga, and the rope put under their feet, that in case of any danger to the canoe, by the shaking of the rope, they might all rise as one man, and see what the matter was. Afterward, that their covenant of friendship might be the stronger, the governor had provided a long silver chain instead of the rope, that it might -never break, or slip, or rust. This chain was to bind both peoples together, as of one head, one heart, one blood; and whenever it became rusty, it was to be immediately brightened up again, that the covenant might be perpetual. Having thus figuratively rehearsed the history of the ancient alliance, Colonel Johnson proceeded with directness to the object of his visit. He told them that the French had emissaries among them, who were endeavoring to blindfold them, and persuade them to slip their hands out of that chain, which, as their wise forefathers had told them would certainly be the destruction of them all. He conjured them therefore to listen no longer to their deceitful enemies, whose object in the end, would be to destroy them all. In answer to their complaint that for two days all their roads had been stopped by the orders of the English-in other words that they had been kept from hunting,-the colonel told them they had misunderstood the belt he had sent them. He had only meant to stop the road leading to Canada. He informed them that the governors of New York and Massachusetts, to their great concern, had heard of their determination soon to go that way again, contrary to their engagements, and he told them explicitly, that he had been sent by those governors to stop their going. It was the wish, both of the governors and himself, that they should act for their own interests, and go in whatever direction they pleased excepting to Canada. On no consideration whatever should they offer to go there.
The plea of the Indians for their present desire to send a mission to Canada was, that several of their "flesh and blood" were in Montreal, chained and imprisoned, and they wished to go thither "and get them back;" but the colonel told them they had better leave that matter to their brethren the English, who would be most likely to succeed. He then rebuked them sharply for a transaction of the preceding year. They had then expressed a strong desire to send an embassy to Canada, to persuade their "flesh and blood," the Caughnawagas, to leave the French, and return to their own country and kindred; and at their solicitation, hostilities were to be suspended during their absence-they promising to return within a month. But instead of that, they staid in Canada the whole summer, and brought back none of their " flesh and blood" when they finally returned. True to his engagement the colonel had kept all the warriors of the Six Nations at home during their absence, and the consequence was that the lives of several of his people had been lost by the incursions of the Canada Indians, and he told the Onondagas plainly that he had no doubt they had seen their scalps. Indeed he charged them with having feigned the errand to the Caughnawagas, for the purpose of giving them an opportunity to talk with the French governor; but he warned them not to set their faces that way again.
Thus far Colonel Johnson told them, the Six Nations had not hurt the Caughnawagas during the war; and yet some of their principal men had lately been murdered in the open fields by the Caughnawagas and the French. "The Frenchman's axe is therefore sticking fast in our heads day after day." By this barbarous act, it was rendered very plain that the French aimed at nothing short of their destruction, which, he insisted, had ever been their design, "as you all," said he, "by sorrowful experience have formerly seen and felt, when they -used to destroy your castles, and sacrifice such numbers of your predecessors, that large heaps of their bones yet lie scattered over your whole country. This consideration alone ought to be sufficient to stir up everlasting resentment in your bosoms against such a barbarous people; and it would, if there was the least spark of that Great Spirit in you, for which your brave ancestors were noted through the world. If you are worthy of those ancestors you will now use the axe against them which you have had so long in your hands.
Before closing his speech, the colonel repeated his suspicions of their friendly intentions toward the French, and warned them against any farther duplicity. They must either drop the French entirely and stand by their own brothers, or declare themselves at once and explicitly, if the contrary was their determination. In conclusion, however, he informed them of the liberal disposition entertained toward them by the governor, and by their great father the king. He had now orders to build forts in their country for the defence of their towns and castles while their braves were absent in the war; and he had the pleasure farther to inform them that the king had sent a quantity of goods as presents for those of them who were hearty in his cause. These presents were expected shortly to arrive, and it was his desire that their nations should meet the governor at Albany, there to receive them.
The council-fire was then raked up until the next day, when the sachems delivered their answer; and even if they had been meditating treachery, either the decided tone in which Colonel Johnson had spoken, or the promised presents, or perhaps the influence of both, had wrought a favorable change in their temper as could have been desired. They admitted that they had been tampered with by the French, "who had used a great deal of art," but promised that their friendship for the English, should never be dropped. They nevertheless thought it hard and cruel that they should not be allowed to go to Canada for their "flesh and blood," rotting and dying in irons, when their release had been offered if they would go for them. "Had you," they said, "got them from thence as you did your own people, we should not have thought of going to Canada as friends, but in another manner." However, as the colonel promised that efforts should be made to procure the release of the Indian captives in exchange for French prisoners, they would not look that way any longer. Yet they begged earnestly that their brother would make haste in this matter. They explained the reason of their long detention when on a mission to Canada, the summer before. While they were in Montreal, news came that the Six rations had killed, and taken several French people, upon which they were ordered to Quebec to be imprisoned. They were detained ninety-two days, at the end of which they were permitted to return, but with only two of their warriors who were prisoners. The governor would release no more, but told them he would give them all up if they would come again this spring, unless in the meantime the Six Nations should make war, in which event he would put them all to death. "Now," said the governor " as we have told you all about this affair, we hope you will not blame us as you have done, but be assured our resolution is to live and die by you. "We listen to you with open ears and mind what you say, you may depend upon it. And we hope you will not make a doubt of it that our firm resolution is, to keep up in every step, to the rules laid down by our forefathers. And as we have your axe so long in hand, we assure you that we have been, ever since we last took it up, always ready to make use of it in conjunction with you and will ever continue, so." Recurring in the course of their speech to the same idea of having had the axe so long in their heads again, the sachem proceeded as follows:
"Brother, we were in hopes to have used the axe before now to some purpose, as you told us two years ago that you were then ready to march with your army, against Canada.. But instead of an army you only sent out small parties, several of whom were by that means cut to pieces. Had you gone on With your army and ships, as you told us you would, and assisted us properly to get over the foreign Indians to our interest, who offered their service, then we should have been able with the loss of a few men to have driven the French and his allies into the great lakes and drowned them. But as you have not done that, which we are sorry for, we tell you now, brother, according to your desire, we used what interest we could that way, and have gained a considerable number of the foreign Indians who were ready to join yon, and us. But there is no sign of an army now, nor the encouragement given to them which they expected. We cannot pretend to say now what they will do."
This rebuke of the English for the feeble manner in which the war had been conducted, notwithstanding all the bustling preparations of the two preceding years, was not undeserved.
The sachems closed their address by warm expressions of thanks to Colonel Johnson for his care over them, and for the presents he had brought. They also promised to meet the governor at his call; and in conclusion, the colonel assured them that he should inform the governor of what had taken place "with a cheerful heart."(1)
Yet in transmitting the proceedings to the governor, the colonel avowed his decided belief that no restraint that should be at once wholesome and permanent, could be imposed upon the Indians, unless by strong legislation, unprincipled white men could be prevented from hastening their destruction by the "accursed traffic of rum."
The idea of a grand council, to be held at Albany the ensuing summer, had been long in contemplation both by Governor Clinton and Governor Shirley.(2) Strangely enough, moreover, considering the course of the ministers in terminating the military demonstrations of the preceding autumn, and ordering the disbanding of the troops, a letter was received from the Duke of Newcastle, in February, addressed to Governors Shirley and Clinton, urging in the strongest terms, the importance of destroying the French settlement at Crown Point-an object, it need not be here repeated, long entertained by the colonies, and the achievement of which, had only been prevented by the indecision, if not the weakness of ministers. They were also directed in the same despatch, to do everything in their power to
(1) For a full account of the proceedings of
this council, see journals of the council board.
(2) Letter from Governor Shirley to Governor Clinton-London documents
secure the steady attachment of the Six Nations to the king's interests-to which end the necessary presents were 1748- to be provided at the expense of the crown. This communication from the ministers only hastened the carrying out of the proposed council; and on the twenty-eighth of March, Governor Clinton being indisposed. Chief Justice De Lancey, by his order, laid before the council the Duke of Newcastle's letter. The letter having been referred to a committee, the suggestions contained in it were fully approved, and an expedition against Crown Point recommended as best calculated to secure the Six Nations in the interests of the crown. The committee farther seconded, without a dissenting voice, the project of holding a council with the Indians during the ensuing summer, and suggested that the governor should send down a message to the house asking for its cheerful acquiescence in these plans. In accordance, therefore, with this advice, the governor sent a message to the assembly, urging upon its consideration these suggestions of the council, and asking for immediate action. On the next day a committee of the whole house reported favorably upon the message, They acknowledged the kindness of his majesty in directing that the Indians should be protected at the expense of the crown; they proposed that the provinces should unite with each other in every well concerted scheme for defence; and suggested that provision should be made to enable the commissioners of the different provinces to meet together and determine upon suitable measures. This report met the entire approval of the assembly, and on the same day it further brought in a bill for reimbursing the governor for the money which he had advanced out of his own funds to Colonel Johnson as pay for the scalps which had been brought in by the Indians.
But notwithstanding this seeming disposition on the part of the assembly to acquiesce in the wishes of the governor, all his efforts to second governor Shirley's favorite plan for an expedition against Crown Point were fruitless. Although the new assembly had not openly opposed the governor thus far, yet its apathy showed plainly how little it was its purpose to second vigorously his efforts. In a letter from Governor Clinton to the lords of trade, under date of April of this year, the writer complains bitterly of this indisposition to second him in his endeavors to promote the welfare of the colony; and alludes in no gentle spirit to the continued encroachments of the house on the crown, particularly as shown in the appointment of Robert Charles as agent for the province without his privity or consent. This appointment by the assembly without reference to the wishes of the governor, was well calculated to exasperate a far less choleric temperament than his; and accustomed as he had been all his life to command, he could ill brook the growing spirit of insubordination in his legislature. Indeed, this is but another evidence of the tendency which was everywhere manifesting itself in the colonies, to assert their entire independence of the crown in the government of their home affairs.
The general assembly again met on the sixth of June, but was adjourned until the twenty-first. The session was opened by a message from the governor, transmitting, among other papers, Colonel Johnson's report of the proceedings at the Onondaga council. Favorable, however, as these proceedings appeared, his excellency said he had little hope of preventing their ultimate defection to the French, unless some enterprise against the enemy should be speedily and resolutely undertaken. He therefore again urged an expedition against Crown Point, conjointly with the colonies of Massachusetts and Connecticut, who were ready to unite immediately in an attempt for the reduction of that post. On the subject of intercourse between the traders and the Indians, a strong enactment to prevent the sale to the latter of spirituous liquors, and the purchase from them of arms, ammunition and clothing, was recommended. The message farther announced that his excellency was preparing to meet the Indians at Albany in the course of the ensuing month; but particularly it called the attention of the assembly to the disaffection of the Indians on account of the detention of their braves in Canada; urging in view of this, that immediate provision be made for the exchange of these prisoners.
Upon the last mentioned suggestion the assembly acted with promptitude; and a resolution was passed, requesting the governor to send a flag of truce to Canada with twenty- five French prisoners then confined in New York, together with all the prisoners detained at Albany, to be exchanged for such of the inhabitants of the colony, and Indians of the Six Nations, as were held in captivity by the French,- the house pledging itself to defray the expense. But as to the other recommendations of the message, a decided spirit of reluctance was manifested. The house refused to engage with Massachusetts and Connecticut in the proposed united expedition against Crown Point;-instead of which they recommended merely that the governor should unite with Governor Shirley, and the other governors on the continent, in humbly representing to his majesty the distressed state of the colonies by reason of the French in Canada, and imploring his assistance.
There had as yet been no collision between Mr. Clinton and his new assembly-rendered new only by the process of an election,-but however smooth the surface, the elements of an outbreak were smoldering beneath. And these had well nigh been called into action by a very small affair, during the present short session. On the twenty- fourth of June, Colonel Beekman, one of the representatives from the county of Dutchess, brought forward with all possible solemnity, a charge against the governor, "of such a violation of the laws, and such a grievance upon the people,-such an attempt upon their rights and properties, --as called loudly for redress." The facts adduced by Colonel Beekman to sustain this very grievous charge, were these : Some of the late levies from Dutchess county, who had served on the northern frontier, had sued, and others were preparing to sue, their captain for their pay; upon which the governor had written to the judge, and Mr. Catherwood, his secretary, to the clerk of the court, and also to the sheriff, desiring them to put a stop to the proceedings. Upon this representation, a committee of inquiry was raised, with power to send for persons and papers. No sooner, however, had the governor seen the entry of these proceedings upon the journals, than he transmitted a message of explanation to the house, from which it appeared that the suits in question had been instituted, by sundry deserters who had gone off with his majesty's arms and clothing, by reason of which they had fortified all pay due them from the crown; and the letters written to the officers of the court, merely recommended that a stop should be put to the claims of those deserters. "If," said, the governor, " such a step taken, can, in the most extensive light, be construed any violation of the laws, or, a grievance upon the people, it was done through inadvertency ; as I never had an intention to infringe upon any man's right or property; and if the people have received any damage thereby, I am ready to redress it." 'So farther action was had in the case, and the assembly adjourned on the first of July,-not, however, without complying with the suggestion of Colonel Johnson, by passing an act more effectually to cut off the pernicious traffic in rum with the Indians.
Mr. Clinton's attention was next occupied in preparations for his approaching interview with the Indians, at which Governor Shirley proposed to be present. Just as he was on the point of starting for Albany, however, tidings though unofficial, were received from Europe, the nature of which would be at once to change the character of the negotiations with the Indians, and of which the governor wrote thus to Colonel Johnson:
Governor Clinton to Colonel Johnson.
NEW YORK, July 5, 1748.
I have just this moment received yours of the first instant, which I have but time to acknowledge by Lieutenant Cleavland, and send you the enclosed piece of news, which I believe will startle you, as it does everybody else; though I think if the Parliament had agreed to the preliminaries, we must have had orders before this. Upon this news I received a letter from Governor Shirley last Saturday, to desire I would postpone my meeting the Indians for eight or ten days. Upon that I have sent an express to know the difficulty I shall meet in complying, besides the danger of making them angry if I don't meet them at or about the time appointed. Therefore I was obliged to set out, but would defer speaking to them till the twentieth instant, in the hope of his being there by that time. I set out on Thursday, and expect an answer to my express at the manor of Livingston this day sennight- having given him positive orders to be there in the morning, and written to Mr. Shirley to despatch him for that end. One reason Governor Shirley gives for postponing the conference, is, that we may expect some directions from home in regard to the Indians, and what it would be proper to say to them on this occasion. Adieu in great haste.
" Yours most sincerely,
" GEO. CLINTON."
" To Colonel Johnson." (1)
The report proved to be true-the preliminaries of a general peace having been signed by the ministers of the great powers, at Aix-la-Chapelle in May, as announced by the king in closing the session of parliament on the thirteenth of that month. The truth was, that all parties had become tired of the war,-England, because of the prodigious expense she was compelled to incur, not only in keeping up her own fleets and armies, but in subsidizing
(1) Manuscript Letter.
the northern powers of Europe,-an expense so great as not to be countermanded by the splendid series of victories which her arms had achieved at sea, and by the glory which the Duke of Cumberland had won upon the continent. The king of France, too, had in the preceding autumn, expressed his desire of a pacification in a personal conversation with Sir John Ligonier, made prisoner by the French in the battle of Laffeldt; and his minister at the Hague had subsequently presented a declaration to the same effect to the deputies of the States General.(1) Nor is it strange that the French monarch should have been desirous of peace. For notwithstanding the successes of his arms in the Netherlands, the victory of Marshall Saxe over the confederates at Laffeldt, was accidental, and withal had been dearly purchased, while the Marshal de Belleisle; though at first successful in Italy, had been checked, and his brother, the chevalier, slain in Piedmont, and his large army defeated. Everywhere upon the seas the English had been victorious. In addition to the loss of the expensive armament under the Duke D'Anville, occasioned by sickness, tempest, and the death of the commander, and the victories of Anson and Warren, of which an account has already been given in a former chapter, Commodore Fox had, in the month of June of the preceding year, taken above forty ships richly laden from St. Domingo, and in October following, Admiral Hawke had achieved his splendid victory over the French fleet commanded by Monsieur Letendeur, in the latitude of Belleisle. Letendeur's fleet consisted of nine ships of the line, besides frigates, in convoy of a numerous fleet of merchant ships bound from the West Indies. A large number of the merchantmen were intercepted before their arrival at Martinique, and taken. The number of prizes captured by the British cruisers that year from the French and Spaniards, was six hundred and forty-four-the loss of the English during the same period not exceeding four hundred and fifty.(2 )
These results had been sufficiently discouraging to the French monarch, who now knew in addition, that Great Britain had at length succeeded in subsidizing the Czarina of' Russia, who had a large army then on the march to join the Duke of Cumberland and the Confederates in the Lowlands. Every day France was becoming more and more impoverished by the expenses, and the leases of the war, While her statesmen were amazed at the resources of England, enabling her not only to maintain invincible armies and navies, but to subsidize all Europe.(1) Hence the desire of the French monarch for peace, the preliminaries of which were signed in May of the present year, as already stated, although there was no cessation of hostilities until the conclusion of the treaty in October.
The time for holding the grand council-so earnestly desired by the royal governors, and so long looked for by the lndians-had now arrived. Preparations for this event had been made upon a large scale, and everything which would render it attractive to the Indiana had been thought of and prepared. Accordingly, on the twentieth of July, Governor Clinton, accompanied by Doctor Colden and other members of his council, arrived in Albany. Here they found waiting them, Governor Shirley and the commissioners of Massachusetts Bay, who had arrived a day or two previously. Nor had the Indians been less prompt in their attendance. The representations from the Six rations, the River Indians, and some of the far off tribes, was unprecedented in the history of any former council. So large, indeed, was the number of Indians assembled upon this occasion, that the oldest of the inhabitants declared that Albany had never before witnessed such a large concourse within her precincts. The exertions of Colonel Johnson, which had been unremitting to secure a fall delegation from each of the different tribes, undoubtedly contributed much to this result.
Indeed, such had been his influence, that numbers of those Indians, who had hitherto leaned toward the French interest, came flocking in from the surrounding country, anxious to show their allegiance to the British crown.
The old Dutch city had in fact seldom witnessed such a sight. Here were gathered Indians from the far West, many of whom at a later period were destined to redden their tomahawks in the blood of so many brave garrisons, under the great Pontiac. Here were many of the River Indians,-remnants of once powerful tribes,-whose grandsires had followed the brave Uncas and Miantonomo to battle, and had taken their last stand with the noble but ill-fated King Philip. In one spot, a painted and tattooed warrior might have been seen smoking his pipe, as he recounted to his wondering companions the sights seen in his morning's stroll; while everywhere groups of picturesquely attired Indians, with nodding plumes and variegated blankets, wandered through the streets, gazing with curious eye upon the novelties of civilization.
The proceedings of the council, however, contrary to expectation, were not important. The governor's speech was but another rehearsal, in substance, and in metaphor, of former ones. The old "covenant chain" was again "brightened," and the Indians were again admonished against the wiles of the French. They were requested to keep "the axe in their hands," and to restrain their young men still longer from their hunting. They were cautioned against allowing their people, under any pretext whatesover, to be seduced, "by the invitations of the French into Canada, and they were peremptorily directed to arrest the celebrated Jean Coeur, so long the arch enemy of the English residing among the Senecas at the Niagara carrying-place, and deliver him to the colonial authorities, and likewise to banish every French emissary from their territory. They were furthermore requested to desist from a war-expedition which, they were about to undertake against the Flat head Indians, residing far in the northwest, who were claimed by the governor as his majesty's allies. The following is the concluding paragraph of the speech, which is quoted in hoec verba, for the reason that it refers to a massacre of which the particulars are not known.
"Brethren: You have since you came to this place, given a new and strong proof of your love to your brethren and fidelity to the king your father, by so cheerfully and speedily sending out a number of your warriors with our troops in quest of the enemy, who a few days since surprised and killed many of our brethren at Schenectady, and although those who earnestly pursued the enemy, had not the good fortune to meet with them, you may assure yourselves that this instance of your affection and readiness to join in our cause, shall always he remembered by me, and made known to the king your father."
No printed or official record of the affair here referred to is believed to exist. Among the Johnson manuscripts, however, I have discovered a very confused and unsatisfactory account of it, contained in a letter to Colonel Johnson from Albert Van Slyck, dated Schenectady, July twenty- first, 1748. From the details preserved in this letter, it appears that a party of men from Schenectady, the leader of Whom was Daniel Toll, had been dispatched to some place in the vicinity to bring in a number of horses, which was surprised by a party of the enemy, whose presence in the neighborhood was neither known nor suspected. The firing being heard by Adrian Van Slyck, a brother of the writer of the account, who seems to have resided at a distance from the town ; he sent a Negro man to the latter place to give the alarm, and obtain reinforcements. Four parties of armed men successively repaired to the scene of action, the first of which was composed of " the New England lieutenant with some of his men, and five or six young lads," accompanied by Daniel Van Slyck,- another brother. The second party was led by Angus Van Slyck, " and some men"-how many of either party is not stated. Adrian Van Slyck followed next, at the head of a party of New York levies; but on reaching the scene of action, where Angus, with inferior numbers, was holding the enemy at bay, the levies all fled, in the most cowardly manner. The fourth party, was composed of Albert Van Slyck, (the writer of the letter,) Jacob Glen, "and several others," on the approach of whom the enemy drew off, leaving Adrian Van Slyck among the dead. The letter adds-" It grieves me, I not being commander, that when we went, Garret VanAntwerp would suffer no more to accompany the party."
Having taken three days for consideration, the Indians replied on the twenty-sixth, Onnasdego, an Onondaga sachem, and orator of renown being the speaker. But the occasion was not such as to kindle the fire of his genius, or to elicit a single glowing period. His oration was therefore a commonplace answer, in their exact order, to the various topics of the speech addressed to them by the governor. In the outset all their ancient covenants with the English were renewed; and while they "freely acknowledged that the French were continually using artifices to induce them to break the covenant chain," they nevertheless were resolved to hold it fast. They promised that none of their people should be allowed to visit the French; declared that no French interpreter should be longer allowed to reside among them; and announced that Jean Coeur had already been delivered up by the Senecas-but of this fact there seems to be no good evidence. Their war-kettle, they said, was yet over the fire, and the hatchet in their hands. They would grasp it still, and be ready to use it when summoned to the path. They promised to desist from the prosecution of hostilities against the Flatheads; thanked the governor for his efforts to procure an exchange of prisoners; expressed their grief for the people who had been slain at Schenectady, and their regret that their warriors had not been able to overtake the enemy, "who had gone a different road from what they used to go." But they would "wipe up the blood of the slain," and " dry up the tears of their friends."
The council fire was then raked up, and the conferences were closed by a dance of the young warriors in the evening, the governor giving them five barrels of beer wherewith to drink his majesty's health.
On the following day the River Indians presented themselves, and were thus welcomed by the governor :-
" Brethren: I am glad to see you here and do give you thanks for the fidelity you have always shown to this government, and I do assure you, you shall never want my protection as long as you behave yourselves with duty and obedience to his majesty. And as a token of the king your father's affection, he has directed me to make you a present which I have ordered to be given you."
To which the chief addressing himself to the governors both of New York and Massachusetts, replied :--
" Fathers : We wipe off your tears you had for the loss of your people who have been murdered since the commencement of this war.
" Fathers: We are very much rejoiced for the regard our father the king of Great Britain has for us by ordering a present which you assure shall be given us.
" Fathers: Our forefathers told us that before any white people came among them, they saw a vessel in the river. For some time they were afraid to go to it. But at last they ventured on board and found them to be white men who treated them civilly and exchanged mutually presents to each other, with promise that they would return the next year, which accordingly happened. When they came again the white people and they entered into a covenant together that they should live on their lands, which they did. And they also promised to take us under their arms and protect us which they have done to this day.
" Fathers: When you came first to this country you were but a small people and we very numerous. We then assisted and protected you, and now we are few in number, you become multitudes like a large tree, whose roots and branches are very extensive, under whose branches we take our shelter as we have heretofore done.
" Fathers: It is now almost three years since the war feat began. You have had a very numerous army together. We were ready to join you in hopes that Canada would have been in possession of the English before now. We have been always ready and have still our hands on the cocks of our guns to go against our common enemy when ever we shall be commanded.
" Fathers: We thank you for your kind expressions toward us, and are very sorry we were not here the other day, when the enemy murdered a number of our brethren at Schenectady, which if we had we would have readily and cheerfully joined in the pursuit of them, even to the gates of Crown Point."
While this council was sitting, the rumor that the preliminaries for a general pacification had actually been agreed upon by the great powers of Europe, became general, and was soon the topic of conversation among Indians, as well as among whites. To the Indians of the Six Nations, who had hoped by a continuance of the war to have avenged their slaughtered relatives, the rumor of a peace was a severe blow. All the clans of the Confederacy had lost some of their braves, but the Mohawks upon whom the loss naturally fell with greater force, now that they had at last gone upon the warpath, were loth to relinquish it. They recalled, too, with bitterness the justice of the remark made by them to Colonel Johnson, when urged by him to take up the hatchet. "You and the French can make peace whenever you choose, but with us when the hatchet is once dug up, it cannot be so easily buried, but the war must be one of extermination."
Still the result of this council, so far as the colonies were concerned, was all that the most sanguine could desire. The Six Nations promised, either to drive all the French emissaries who had privately resided among them, out of their country, or to deliver them up to Governor Clinton. They agreed farther to send no deputations to the Canadian governor, and to keep their warriors in constant readiness to obey the commands of Mr. Clinton. Indeed so strong had been the desire of the Confederates to send a deputation into Canada-Galissoniere having represented that this was the condition alone upon which their braves detained by him would be given up-that Governor Shirley thought it best to bring with him fourteen French prisoners to be immediately sent into Canada as an exchange for an equal number of Indians detained there in captivity.
The tragedy at Schenectady, was not the only one enacted upon the northern border of the colony during the summer of 1748. Another, of a most heart rending description, was perpetrated at about the same time, in the town of Hoosic, twenty-five miles north of Albany, by a party of Indians from St. Francis, which, from its peculiar barbarity, and the character of the victims, deserves a more extended record than is usually awarded to these incidents of the border. Indeed among all the scenes of blood, written or traditionary, in the early history of this country, none surpass in cruelty the one now about to be related. Maria Keith, whose name is identified with this savage transaction, was born in 1721, of highly respectable parents, on the banks of the Hudson, about eighteen miles above Albany. Of her infancy and early life, it is sufficient to say, that she gave decided promise of no ordinary qualities of mind, evincing an unusual attachment for books, and devoting to reading the greater part of that, which her contemporaries in childhood spent in play. By seizing thus upon every opportunity of improving her mind, she acquired much information, and laid up a considerable amount of knowledge, though the expression of her biographer, from whom the leading facts of the narrative are drawn, that "she had informed her opening mind with the principles of every useful science," is probably somewhat exaggerated.(1) But be this as it may, it is evident that her mind was well cultivated. To this excellence may be added another, which though of less importance, yet deserves notice, that her manners were elegant, and her person uncommonly attractive. Her beauty became so celebrated that her fame reached Albany, and drew thence several admirers who visited Miss Keith, and solicited her hand. This she refused to all her Albanian suitors, reserving her affections for a relative of the same name. The latter, though not handsome, yet having an engaging address, and being mutually and morally such as suited her tastes, won her heart, in preference to other lovers, who might have been considered in a worldly point of view, more eligible. She was married at the youthful age of fifteen, her nuptials being celebrated under the most favorable auspices.
Immediately after her marriage, Mr. Keith erected, a beautiful mansion on the banks of the Touharna, a tributary of the Hoosic river, whither they removed, and where they were surrounded by everything necessary to happiness and tranquil enjoyment. Among the neighbors they were both very popular, winning golden opinions by their kindness to the sick, their generosity to the poor and needy, and their hospitality to all of every grade in life who entered within their peaceful doors. In this way they passed twelve years of uninterrupted happiness, during which time Mrs. Keith gave birth to a daughter and a son, between whose ages there was a difference of nearly eleven years,-this latter having been born in the spring of the year now under review. In every hour of alarm, therefore, Mrs. Keith felt increased anxiety on account of the helpless infant which she held in her arms. Indulging the feelings of a devoted and an attached mother, she listened with breathless solicitude, to all the rumors which were spread concerning the
(1) Works of Ann Maria Bleecker.
marauding bands of Indians, gent out from Canada by the French, for the purpose of ruthless devastation upon the property, and merciless cruelty upon the persons of the borderers. Rumor with her thousand tongues, many of which spake but too truly in this case, soon repeated the nearer and nearer approach of another band of the dreaded ministers of French and savage vengeance. When it was ascertained that the Indians had arrived within the vicinity of Fort Edward, and were seen prowling about that place, Mr. Keith dispatched a messenger to bring his brothers who: resided there, to his house on the Touharna,-deeming his residence a safer sanctuary, on account of its being more interior. One of his brothers had been married several months before, and his wife at the time of their flight from Fort Edward, was in a peculiarly delicate situation.
Not long after Mr. Keith had thus collected his relations around him, and under his roof, his family were visited by Borne Indians of the St. Francis tribe, who had pitched their wigwams a small distance from the village of Schaghticoke. These were hospitably entertained, and were permitted to pass several hours in eating and drinking; during which time much conversation passed between Mrs. Keith and her savage visitors. To soothe her apprehensions, an old Indian who was spokesman, assured her that the family might dismiss their fear, and solemnly promised that in case of any danger she should be seasonably informed, and the means afforded her for escape. To enforce his "glozing lies," he presented her with a belt of wampum, saying, " There, receive my token of friendship. 'We go to dig up the hatchet, to sink it in the heads of your enemies. "We shall guard this word with a rail of fire. You shall be safe." Still farther to quiet her fears, he added in apparent anger that she should suspect his fidelity, " No Maria, I am a true man. I shoot the arrow up to the Great Captain every new moon ; depend upon it, I will trample down the briars round, your dwelling that you do not hurt your feet." These bland words seem to have satisfied Mrs. Keith, though her husband, with greater sagacity, suspected and feared that beneath was concealed a plan for their destruction.
The next morning after the ominous visit of the savages, perhaps for the purpose of dispelling the anxiety of his mind, Mr. Keith proposed a hunting excursion to his brother Peter, which was accepted, and they sallied forth with their guns in quest of game. Musing upon the perils that surrounded their families, they had gone several miles from home, before they became aware of the distance they had traveled. At that moment their eye caught sight of a fine doe, at which Peter leveled his piece, and brought her to the ground. But scarcely had the echo of the explosion died away among the the hills, when they heard a rustling, followed by the crack of a rifle, and Peter fell forward pierced by two balls in his heart. This was rapidly followed by the rushing of two savages upon them, one of whom prepared to scalp his victim, while the other aimed his gun at Mr. Keith. Quick as thought Mr. Keith shot his antagonist dead on the spot, and assailing the other Indian with the butt of his rifle, prostrated him on the ground. Leaving his foes for dead, he placed the bleeding corpse of his brother upon his horse, and hastened home with the dire intelligence.
It is not necessary to describe the scene of woe that followed his arrival, bearing with him the dead body of a brother, who a few hours before, had been in the enjoyment of life and health. Suffice it to say, that after having washed the body from its gore, and prepared it for the grave, they laid it in an upper room, designing to have the obsequies performed the following day. Under circumstances calculated to excite no great alarm, Mr. Keith resolved to set out that night for Schaghticoke, to procure a couple of wagons, and convey his family to Albany. Though dissuaded by his wife from going, yet he persisted in his design, and accordingly went, leaving an affectionate circle behind him, which he fondly hoped to see again in o-,-'the course of a few hours, and greet them with tidings of success, and the certainty of being soon placed beyond the reach of danger. But he had not been gone long, when at the hour of midnight, the inmates of Mr. Keith's mansion were startled by voices and yells of savages surrounding the house, and clamoring for admission. Blow after blow was made upon the doors. Every moment increased the violence of the assailants, who were bent upon deeds of blood. Mrs. Keith pressed her children more closely to her heaving bosom, and all stood petrified with terror. At length the brother of Mr. Keith, who, as I have already mentioned, had been lately married, advanced as if in frantic despair, and unbarred the door. Instantly it flew open, and he fell pierced with balls, and weltering in his blood. In rushed the savages, and immediately began the work of death. They seized the prostrate husband of Cornelia, and tore off his scalp before her eyes. While this deed was perpetrating, an Indian, hideously painted, strode up to Cornelia, and buried his tomahawk in her forehead. Her, eyes just opened as the blow descended, and then closed forever. Perceiving her near approach to being a mother, they ripped her body open, and tearing the unborn child from her womb, dashed it against the wall.
While this horrid carnage was going on, another Indian, -the same one who had with Punic faith presented the belt of wampum as a token of peace,-approached Mrs. Keith, who sat circling her children in her arms, and uttering the most piteous entreaties for mercy. She drew forth and showed to her treacherous foe, the belt, and appealed to his promise made when he gave it to her. But she might as well have remonstrated with the ferocious tiger, when hungry for prey. He only replied that she should be spared, and " dance with him around the council fire in Canada"-and then with a sardonic smile, expressing the fear that her infant son would only encumber her on the journey, he seized the child by the wrists, and tore it from her embrace. Enraged apparently at her resistance, he dashed its forehead against the wall, and hurled its reeking body some distance from the house. Frenzied by the sight she rushed to the mangled remains of her loved infant, redoubling her cries of anguish, casting herself upon its body, wiping the blood from its ghastly countenance, and pressing it to her bosom.
The savages having plundered the house of everything that was portable, forced those who had escaped their vengeance, to quit the house, consisting of Mrs. Keith, her daughter Anna, a lovely girl in her twelfth year, and a brother of Mr. Keith. They then completed the work of destruction by firing the building, which was soon enveloped in flames. But Mrs. Keith's cup of sorrow was not yet full. Anna, acting as if she thought that death in any shape was to be preferred to being in the hands of ruthless barbarians, to whom pity was a stranger, fled precipitately back to the house, though the flames were bursting forth in every direction, and entering in, secreted herself in a closet, where she remained until her escape became impossible, and perished in the devouring fire. The excruciating feelings of Mrs. Keith, on being compelled to behold this funeral pile of her only daughter, can readily be imagined. Words fail to express the horror which must have filled her bosom, when seeing at her feet the mangled remains of one child, and witnessing the raging flames that were consuming the other, by a most agonizing death. She continued calling the name of her daughter with loud cries, till the Indians, impatient at her delay, compelled her and her brother, the only survivors in this fearful tragedy, to set out with them in their journey to Canada.
The remainder of the story is soon told. On her wearisome journey with the savages, nothing remarkable occurred that deserves a particular mention. As might be supposed, she suffered various privations, and was exposed to great fatigue. Unaccustomed to their mode of living, she would have been starved, had not her brother prepared her food, and ministered to her necessities. After enduring numerous perils and hardships, she at last reached Canada. When in the Indian village, to which her captors hastened, she narrowly escaped having her brains dashed out by an old hag, who seemed determined to glut her vengeance upon the prisoners. But on reaching Montreal, bating some painful circumstances which, to the disgrace of civilization were allowed, she was kindly provided for by some charitable ladies, one of whom received her into her house, and treated her with the kindness of a sister.
Thus she remained in the house of this charitable Samaritan, till she was at last found by her husband. The morning after the deed of cruelty which has been described, was perpetrated, he returned with two wagons to carry his family to Albany. But what was his horror, on beholding his house burned to the ground, and the scene of ruin which on every side met his eye! By exploring the ruins, however, he found the bones of those who had been murdered, and also, which touched his heart to the quick, the half consumed remains of his infant, bearing yet the marks of savage violence. Collecting these charred bones, and depositing them in a box, he returned with them to Schagnticoke, where they were decently buried. Resigning himself to despair, and supposing that Indian vengeance had spared not a single object of his affections, he joined the colonial army, resolving to seek death by placing himself in the front of the battle, and courting places of the greatest exposure. But the bullets passed harmlessly by him, -nor could he find the death he sought. At length the thought occurred to him that he might yet find his brother, who possibly had not fallen a victim. Cherishing the idea, he set off for Canada, availing himself of the opportunity of accompanying some prisoners, who were returning to Quebec. In Canada he pursued the object of his journey -with indefatigable ardor, inquiring of every officer the names of prisoners who had been captured during the war. On arriving at Montreal, he was immediately introduced to the general officer, who patiently heard his story, and treated him with great clemency. Having obtained permission to remain in town a few days, he respectfully withdrew, and turning down a street inquired of a man where lodgings were to be let. The stranger turned about and civilly took off his hat, when whom should Mr. Keith recognize in the stranger, but his brother Henry? By him Mr. Keith received the delightful intelligence of his wife's preservation, and of her being then in Montreal. He speedily flew to her embrace. The rapture of the reunion was greater than she could endure. She fainted in his arms, but soon recovered, and felt that the joy of meeting compensated her for the wearisome months of sadness, grief and distraction which she had endured.
Nor were the borders of Massachusetts and New Hampshire unmolested during the spring and summer of this year. Unable to obtain assistance from their own government, the inhabitants of the exposed settlements of New Hampshire upon the Connecticut river, applied to Massachusetts, by the legislature of which a garrison of one hundred men was placed in the fort at Charlestown, called Number Four, under the command of the gallant Captain Stevens, who had signalized himself by his bravery in that position before. His second in command was Captain Humphrey Hobbs. Fort Massachusetts having been rebuilt, was also garrisoned by one hundred men and entrusted again to its former commander, Captain Ephraim Williams-Colonel John Stoddard of Northampton, having the general command of the northern and western frontiers of that colony. Dying, however, in the month of June, that eminent man was succeeded by Colonel Israel Williams, of Hartford.
But it was not garrison duty alone which the officers and soldiers of Number Four were required to perform. They had a wide extent of territory to guard against the eruptions of the enemy, extending from the upper Merrimac country to Lake Champlain, and a suitable number of men, - from both forts, were required to be constantly employed ranging the forests to intercept the enemy in their sallies from Crown Point, and the great Indian rendezvous of St. Francis. The enemy first appeared at Charlestown about the middle of March, when a party of thirty Indians attacked eight of Stevens's men, at a short distance from the fort. Captain Stevens sallied forth for their rescue, and brought them in after a sharp skirmish, with the loss of two men, one of whom was killed, and the other taken prisoner. A third was wounded. A yet larger party, consisting of eighteen men under Captain Melvin, from the game garrison, had a narrower escape in the month of May. Melvin having crossed the woods to the shore of Lake Champlain opposite Crown Point, imprudently disclosed himself to the enemy in that fortress by firing upon two canoes of Indians. A party was immediately sent out from the fort to intercept him on his return, which by a rapid march gained his front. Having crossed the enemy's trail, and thereby discovered his design, Melvin endeavored to circumvent him by changing his course from Charlestown, and striking down in the direction of Fort Dummer. But the enemy was soon upon his path, and in close pursuit, though without his knowledge. Arriving at West river, Melvin incautiously allowed his men to halt and amuse themselves by shooting the salmon which were passing up a shoal of that stream. The consequence had well nigh been fatal to the whole party, since the enemy, thus apprised of their halt, and by stealthy observation of their amusement, rushed upon them unawares, and killed six of the moat valuable men,-the residue, after vainly attempting to make a stand against superior numbers, making their escape to Fort Dummer. A month afterward a party of thirteen men on the route from Hinsdale to Fort Dummer,
(1) Fort Dummer, frequently spoken of in the early border wars, was first built in 1723. It was situated on the Connecticut river, forty miles below Charlestown, or Number Four.
fell into an Indian ambuscade, and were all but three either killed or taken prisoners.(1)
The history of this feebly conducted contest shows that in a large majority of these border affairs, the enemy was successful-a fact, perhaps, that should create no wonder, when it is considered that his movements were always by stealth, and his attacks by surprise,-lie having the selection of time and place, and the option of fighting or not, i. K according to circumstances. But fortune was not always turning in their favor. It happened that on the twenty-sixth of June, while Captain Hobbs, at the head of forty men from the garrison of Number Four, was ranging the woods west of the Connecticut river, when about twelve miles from Fort Dummer, he was attacked by a strong body of Indians, under a resolute half-breed chief named Sackett. Hobbs and his men were regaling themselves at their knapsacks at the moment of the attack, in an opening upon a rivulet hedged with alders, and covered with large and towering trees. The precaution of posting sentinels, however, had not been omitted, so that the surprise was less complete than otherwise it would have been. At the instant of alarm, each man selected a tree for his cover, and the Indians rushing upon the heels of the sentinels, were in the onset so warmly received as to check their advance. The Indians, in like manner, selected trees for their protection; and an irregular battle succeeded which lasted four hours. The two captains were both men of coolness and courage. They were personal acquaintances, and had been friends before the war, and frequently called out to each other in the course of the fight-Sackett claiming-as he had-a large superiority of force, and demanding a surrender, on pain of the indiscriminate use of the tomahawk in case of refusal. Hobbs, with stentorian voice, refused and bade defiance. Less cautious than the English, the Indians several times exposed themselves by attempting to advance to a hand to hand contest, but were as often
repulsed, with severe loss. Discouraged, at length, by the unyielding courage of Hobbs and his men, and probably forming an erroneous estimate of their strength, the Indians at length drew off--dragging off, also, their dead, by reason of which their loss was not known.(1) Many Indians, however, were seen to fall, and the battle ground was deeply sanguine. But notwithstanding the duration of the fight, only three of the English were killed, and the same number wounded.(2) The strength of the Indians was estimated at one hundred and sixty. Still, the expedition of Sackett was not altogether bootless, since, a fortnight afterward he surprised a party of seventeen men between Hinsdale and Fort Dummer, killed two and wounded the same number, and made nine of the residue prisoners, four escaped. In these enterprises it seems to have been the desire of the enemy to take captives rather than, to kill. There was sound policy in this; the large amounts received from the friends of the captives for their ransom, going far toward defraying the expenses of the war.
Fort Massachusetts was not molested until past midsummer. But on the second of August, a party of four men being engaged at some distance from the fort, were fired upon by an enemy whose presence had not been suspected. Captain Williams immediately sallied forth for their rescue with Lieutenant Hawley and thirty men. The attacking party, apparently small, were soon driven back; but in the moment of fancied safety, an ambuscade of thirty Indians rose and poured in a fire upon Williams's right, moving with the design of intercepting his return to the
(1) "In all battles the Indians endeavor to conceal their loss, and in effecting this, they sometimes expose themselves more than in combat with the enemy. When one falls, his nearest comrade crawls up, under cover of the trees and brush, and fixing a tump line to the dead body, cautiously drags it to the rear. Hobbs's men related that in this action they often saw the dead bodies of the Indians sliding along the ground, as if by enchantment." -Hoyt.
(2) Hoyt's Antiquities.
fort. The celerity of Williams's movements, however, frustrated this maneuver, and the fort was reached with the loss of only one man killed and two wounded-one of whom was the lieutenant. It soon appeared that the escape of Williams was most fortunate. Indeed it must be confessed that he had exhibited singular absence of military precaution in hazarding a sortie with so small a party, while ignorant of the strength of his enemy; three hundred of whom, including thirty Frenchmen, followed close upon his heels as he regained the fort, and commenced a general attack. The fire was sustained on both sides about two hours ; but having no artillery, the enemy was unable to make any impression upon the works, and drew off with a loss, the amount of which was not ascertained. The enemy was shortly afterward more successful in the neighborhood of Fort Dummer, where a party of seven under Lieutenant John Sargeants, was defeated, the commander being among the killed, and the survivors made, prisoners.(1)
Meanwhile serious trouble began to manifest itself among the troops stationed at Albany and along the frontiers, in consequence of the scarcity of supplies. Many of the men deserted, and some of the officers resigned their commissions, flatly refusing to serve longer.(2) The assembly was not to meet until October, and the commissioners refused to execute the orders which the governor, by the advice of his council, had given them for supplying the troops,-urging as an excuse that they had not been so authorized by the assembly. The governor was exceedingly chafed by this refusal of the commissioners to act. This appears in all of his correspondence at this time, but especially in his correspondence with Colonel Johnson, with whom he was now on terms of intimacy. In a letter
(1) Hoyt's Antiquities.
(2) Manuscript letter, Johnson to Clinton ; also manuscript letter to Johnson from Captain Stoddard, then in command at Schenectady.
under date of October fifth, the following passage occurs:
" By a letter I have from Captain Stoddard that no provisions are gone up, I conclude it was designedly neglected by the commissioners in order to distress the service and disband the troops sooner than I thought it necessary; and with a great deal of assurance, declared that even if they were served with an order from the council they would not obey it! What a low ebb is the governor and council of New York driven to, that their orders are refused for three weeks provisions for a few men. * * * * Formerly the governor and council had the disposal of every shilling, and did it all in council by warrant, without consulting the assembly or anybody."(1)
Those persons have read little, and have thought still less, who suppose that the revolt of the colonies was the result of a moment. The controversies between the assembly and the executive; the seeming apathy of the house to provide for the safety of the frontiers, and its general indifference in providing the needed supplies of which Mr. Clinton so bitterly complains, had in fact their use not so much in an unconcern for the welfare of the colonies as in a fixed determination to resist the encroachments of the crown. Still it must be frankly admitted, that the assembly were often in the wrong, and that much of this treatment of the governor was harsh and ill-judged.
In the assembly, which met upon the twelfth of October, the governor determined to reassert the prerogative in the strongest terms by bringing the subject of a permanent supply to direct issue; choosing as an able writer has remarked, New York as the opening scene in the final contest that led to independence."(2) Accordingly on the fourteenth Mr. Clinton sent down his message to the house, in which, after congratulating them upon the near prospect of a general peace, he demanded a permanent support for five years. The message stated that on coming
(1) Manuscript letter.
to the administration of the government, he had been disposed to do all he could, consistently with his duty to the king, for the care and satisfaction of the people. Hence, reposing confidence in the advice then given him, he had given his assent to various acts of the assembly, the tendency of which, as experience had taught him, was to weaken the authority of his majesty's government. Still, as the country was very soon afterward involved in war, he had forborne to take that attitude in the premises which duty to his sovereign seemed to require. But with the return of peace, he deemed it to be his indispensable duty to put a stop to such innovations. Prominent among these was the practice which had been growing up, of making only an annual provision for the payment of the officers of the government. He also alluded to the modern practice of naming the officers, for whose benefit the appropriations were made, in the act-thus interfering with the prerogative in the appointing honor. He admonished the assembly that he should give his assent to no acts of that character for the future ; and demanded an appropriation for the payment of the governor's, secretaries, judges and other salaried officers, for the term of five years, according to the practice that had prevailed during the administration of his four immediate predecessors, namely, Governors Hunter, Burnett, Montgomery, and Cosby. The inconveniences of these annual grants of salaries and allowances, was adverted to, and objections farther urged against the recent method of intermixing matters of an entirely different nature with the provisions of the salary bills, and tacking new grants for other purposes to the governor's own support. The governor desired them farther to make immediate provision for the payment of the troops at Albany, and on the frontier; recommended that the troops should be continued at Albany; and concluded by calling the attention of the assembly to a debt of two thousand one hundred and thirty-eight pounds, due to Colonel Johnson for disbursements made by that gentleman in the public service, and which had been allowed and ordered to be paid by an act of the preceding session. Owing to a deficiency in the funds, upon which it was directed to be charged, the money had not been paid; and the inconvenience of being kept so long out of so large a sum of money, was so great, that it was only with much difficulty that he had been enabled to persuade the colonel to undertake again the supplying of the import ant garrison at Oswego.
The assembly, in its reply, justly regarding the request for a permanent supply as a direct attempt to render the crown independent of the people, with great indignation, refused to grant it. As to the more recent practice of naming the officers provided for in the salary bills, it not only justified it, but intimated that if this course had been adopted at an earlier day, his excellency would not have been able to remove the third justice of the supreme court "without any color of misconduct" on his part who was " a gentleman of learning and experience in the law.'"(1) Respecting the other matters in the message, it . replied, that it saw no reason for burdening the colony with the troops in Albany, declaring that the troops at Oswego were quite sufficient in time of peace for the protection of the province. It passed however, a bill granting three thousand six hundred pounds for the pay of the troops on the frontier, but ignored entirely the claim of Colonel Johnson. The result can readily be seen. After continual bickerings for several weeks, Mr. Clinton, in great wrath, prorogued the assembly.
Thus the parties separated, and thus again commenced that great struggle between the republican and the monarchal principle, which in the onward progress of the former was destined at a day not even then far distant, to work such mighty results in the western hemisphere.
Alluding to the removal, the year before, of Justice Horsmanden. This act was again imputed to the influence of "a person of a mean and despicable character"-meaning, as it wag well understood, Doctor Golden.
Although hostilities were suspended between the belligerents, whose armies were contending in the Netherlands, immediately after the preliminaries were signed at Aix La Chapelle, yet it was long before the forces at sea were apprised of the fact. Meantime Admiral Boscawen, in the East Indies, having invested Pondicherry by land and water, was compelled to retire with signal discomfiture. Bear Admiral Knowles, too,-the same who had rendered himself so deservedly unpopular at Boston the year before,-continued to prosecute the contest in the West Indies with various success. With a squadron of eight ships he attacked fort St. Louis, on the south side of St. Domingo, which after a warm action of three hours was surrendered on capitulation and dismantled. But he afterward made an abortive attempt upon St. Iago de Cuba, at the result of which he was greatly chagrined.(1) Early in October Admiral Knowles, while cruising in the neighborhood of Havana, with eight ships of the line, fell in with a Spanish squadron of nearly equal force, commanded by Admiral Reggio, and a severe engagement ensued, which lasted six hours, commencing at two o'clock in the afternoon, and ending at eight. Knowles himself began the action in gallant style, but being seriously disabled, his ship was compelled to drop astern of the squadron, and was not afterward engaged in the line; but being borne down upon by the enemy, and another ship coming to his assistance, a struggle sharp and bloody ensued. The Spanish commander, notwithstanding the inferiority of his force, was at one time confident of victory;(2) but the fortunes of the day were against him, and he was compelled to put into the Havana with the loss of two ships; and a third was destroyed the next day to prevent her from falling into the hands of the English. Admiral Knowles taxed some of his men with misbehavior in this affair, and he was accused in turn. Several of the officers were
(2) Spanish official account in the Gentleman's Magazine for April 1749.
tried by a court martial, and reprimanded, and Knowles himself was tried in December, 1749. The court acquitted him of the charge of cowardice ; awarding him on the contrary, the merit of great personal bravery. But he was nevertheless found guilty of negligence in his arrangements, in several particulars, and ordered to he reprimanded.(1) High feelings of animosity arose among the officers, who either took sides with or against the admiral, and several duels were the consequence, in one of which a Captain Jarvis was mortally wounded by his antagonist Captain Clark.(2) But according to both English and Spanish accounts the action was bravely fought on both sides. As it proved it was a needless waste of life.
The definite treaty of peace was concluded and signed on the seventh day of October at Aix La Chapelle ; and considering the circumstances under which it was concluded, and the relative strength of the parties and the , condition of the alliance at the head of which was England, for a farther prosecution of the contest, it was a most inglorious peace.(3) Thus ended the " old French war," produced by the wickedness of Frederick, " the evils of which were felt in lands where the name of Prussia was unknown; and, in order that he might rob a neighbor whom he had promised to defend, black men fought on the coast of Coromandel, and red men scalped by the great lakes of North America."(4)
(1) Proceedings of the court martial, vide Gentleman's Magazine,
(3) This contest was called "the old French war." It was in fact begun by Frederick the Great, by an unjust and rapacious attack upon the Empress-Queen Maria Theresa, for the purpose of wresting Siberia from her. It involved the world in arms. The respective alliances on the one side, were the king of Great Britain, the empress-queen, the states-governors of the United Provinces, and the king of Sardinia, with several smaller princes as auxiliaries On the other side, was the alliance of France, Spain, (claiming the Austrian succession,) the infant Don Philip, brother of the king of Spain and son-in-law of the king of France, with the republic of Genoa and the duke of Madrid.
(4)Macauley's life of Frederick the Great.
Meanwhile the Confederates were again becoming solicitous for those of their warriors who were still languishing in chains in Canada.(1) The promises made to them at the council at Albany, by Clinton and Johnson, of the speedy release of their brethren, had quieted them for a time. But now, as month after month passed away and nothing was accomplished, they doubted the power of the English to bring this about, and thought seriously of taking the matter into their own hands. Johnson feared this himself, for in a letter written at this time to Governor Clinton upon the subject, he says:-"There is not one of our Indians suffered to come, nor any of the Christians who were taken with them, which is very hard, and will he the means, I reckon, of all the Five Nations going down now to Canada to get them." There was indeed cause for alarm; and it required the most strenuous exertions of Colonel Johnson to keep the Mohawks quietly at their castles, until the terms of the exchange of prisoners, could be settled. This was no easy matter ; and throughout the remainder of the year the attention of Mr. Clinton was chiefly occupied in successive negotiations with Galissoniere, for an exchange of prisoners. But notwithstanding the evident approach of peace, and an arrangement for a cessation of arms in Europe, the French governor opposed various obstacles in the way of an equitable and prompt exchange. Mr. Clinton had sent two flags of truce without success, particularly in reference to the captive warriors of the Six Nations, who, as before hinted, were becoming exceedingly restive under the delay, much so, indeed, as to lead them to send a special deputation of their chiefs to New York at the close of September, to plead with the governor upon the subject.(2) There were likewise many prisoners in, Canada, males and females, inhabitants of the frontiers, who had been carried away, and who were of course, with their friends, anxious
(1) Manuscript letter; J. Williams to Major Lydius.
(2) See journals of the council.
for their return.(1) But the difficulty was not so much in relation to the exchange of the English for the French prisoners, as it was in reference to the exchange of the Mohawks for an equal number of the French held as prisoners in New York. La Galissoniere, claimed that the Mohawks were an independent nation, and as such, qualified to treat alone with him upon the subject; while Clinton justly maintained that by the treaty of Utrecht, the Mohawks were the dependent and subjects of the British crown.
Instead therefore, of meeting the views of Mr. Clinton and proceeding at once to a general exchange, Galissoniere released only a few, sending a return flag, with seven officers, eighteen privates, and four Canadian Indians, accompanied by some propositions to which the governor of New York refused to accede. On the arrival of this formidable company at Albany, Colonel Johnson's suspicions were aroused that all was not right; and he would not allow them to proceed to New York, until permission to that effect had been received.(2) That permission having been given, the French party, the leader of whom was M. Francis Marie, proceeded at once to New York. The embassy was, however, bootless as appears by the following passage taken from a long manuscript letter upon this and other subjects, addressed by Mr. Clinton to Colonel Johnson on the fifth of October:-" As the commandant of this party is a very pretty gentleman, it grieves me much that I can't send any of his people back with him, as it might be of great service in recommending him to the governor. But his letter is so haughty, and indeed rather insolent, that I am obliged to stick on punctilios. His detaining our Christian prisoners from us in time of peace, is not right. Yet if he had sent one or two of the Indians
(1) Manuscript letter from Peter Van Schaick to Colonel Johnson,- written at this time, while a prisoner in Canada,-begging that the latter would use his earnest efforts to obtain his speedy release.
(2) Manuscript letter; Colonel Johnson to Governor Clinton.
back in room of the five of his I sent, something might have been done. But the poor gentleman must go back as he came, and thank his own governor's indiscretion for putting things on a wrong footing."
Thus matters stood until the end of the year. Nothing definite was arrived at in relation to the exchange ; and although there were no active hostilities, yet the year closed, leaving all parties mutually dissatisfied, and equally suspicious of the designs of each other.
Thanks to James F. Morrison for loaning his book for the purpose of putting it on the internet.
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