History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Frontiersmen of New York
by Jeptha R. Simms
Albany, NY 1883
Volume I, Page 241
1759 dawned with better prospects of success to the British arms. Gen. Amherst, who had succeeded the vain Abercrombie, planned the invasion of Canada and the lakes by three different routes. One up the St. Lawrence to Quebec by Gen. Wolfe ; one against Ticonderoga and Crown Point, which he was to lead in person ; and a third under Gen. Prideaux against Niagara, and, if successful, to proceed thence to Montreal. Fort Ticonderoga, on the approach of Amherst, was evacuated by the enemy, who retired to Crown Point, which, in turn, they evacuated, and went to Isle Aux Noix, at the north end of Lake Champlain. A succession of storms prevented a pursuit of the enemy, and Amherst went into winter quarters at Crown Point. In prosecuting his enterprise against Fort Niagara, Gen. Prideaux was killed early by the bursting of one of his cohorns, and the command devolved upon Sir William Johnson, who prosecuted the plans of the former to a successful issue. An attempt was made to raise the siege by an army under D. Aubrey, which was met and repulsed by Sir William, the French commander being among the slain. The garrison of the fort, including non-combatants-consisting of over 600-became prisoners of war. Thus was another military laurel added to the chaplet of Sir William Johnson. + The latter officer was anxious to proceed to Montreal; but the caution of Amherst, for the want of a better flotilla, would not allow him to take the hazard of the enterprise.++
+ Holmes' Annals. ++Stone's Sir William Johnson.
Gen. Amherst was to have co-operated with Gen. Wolfe after his success on the lakes, but failed to do so: Gen. Wolfe, however, was not to be discouraged, and after the failure of several plans he still determined to do what was expected of him by the home government-capture Quebec; and to the surprise and consternation of Montcalm, the French commander, on the 13th of September, 1759, Wolfe appeared with his army on the Heights of Abraham, which commanded the supposed impregnable city. A terrible action followed in which both commanders were among the dying. In the last moment of his life, Wolfe, while being supported by a lieutenant, heard his men shout : They run! " Who run?'' asked the dying hero. The French, replied his supporter. " Then I die happy! " said the invincible chieftain, and instantly expired. The history of the world under all the circumstances, does not show a more glorious military death. Montcalm was a foeman worthy of his steel, and when that officer was borne into the city and was told that his wound was mortal, he replied : " I am glad of it! " When told he could live but a few hours-" so much the better," said he, " as I shall not then live to see the surrender of Quebec '. " He died the next morning, and five days after, the enemy being much straitened for food, the British flag floated from the walls of the doomed city ; which contained about 10,000 souls.*
The End of French Rule in Canada--In the fall of 1759, the French still held possession of Montreal and a few other posts, and early in the spring they attempted and almost succeeded in recapturing Quebec, but the timely arrival of an English fleet, compelled the French to return to Montreal, where they concentrated all their forces. Gen. Amherst with an army of 10,000 troops, joined by Sir William Johnson with 1,000 Iroquois warriors, embarked from Oswego for Montreal, where he was joined by Col. Haviland, from Crown Point. Gen. Murray, with a body of troops from Quebec, also opportunely arrived to join in the siege : when the French Governor, the Marquis de Vaudreuil, finding all hope of succor at an end ; surrendered his troops as prisoners of war : and thus
* Holmes' Annals
happily for the American colonies, and especially for New York, terminated for ever French rule in Canada, and that whole country became rapidly Anglicized.
A Surprise and Massacre at the Devil's Hole, on Niagara river.-The following sketch of a transaction not generally known when we first published it, is no doubt the most authentic account of it ever obtained ; and was copied by the writer by permission about the year 1840, from "Notes of a Journey made to Niagara," by Isaac Hall Tiffany, Esq., in 1806 : who went thither on horseback from Cobelskill, Schoharie county.
In the summer of 1759, Sir William Johnson landed with a body of troops at the mouth of a creek, four miles from Niagara, since called -Johnson's creek, and took possession of Forts Niagara and Schlosser, posts of much importance erected by the French on the east side of Niagara river, as they commanded the trade of the upper lakes. In 1760, Mr. Stedman, an Englishman, contracted with Sir. William to construct a portage road from Queenston Landing, now Lewiston, to Fort Schlosser, a distance of about eight miles. The road having been completed, on the morning of September 17, 1763, fifteen wagons and teams mostly of oxen, under an escort of 24 men commanded by a sergeant, and accompanied by the contractor, Stedman and Capt. Johnson as a volunteer, set out from Fort Niagara with stores, etc. intended for the garrison at Fort Schlosser. Arriving something over two miles from the top of the mountain above Lewiston, and 10 or 12 from Niagara, the escort and wagons halted about 11 o'clock, on a little savanna of green sward to rest and take refreshments beside a gulf called in Indian and English, the Devil's Hole. This is a semi-circular precipice or chasm of some 200 feet diameter up and down the river on the summit, but less at the bottom. A little distance from the brink of the hole, is a kind of natural mound, several feet in height, also of crescent shape ; and 60 feet from the top issues a fine spring, which dashes down through the underbrush to the river. A small brook in the neighborhood, called the bloody-run, now runs into the chasm. The Seneca Indians continued in the French interest at this period, and fearing hostile movements on their part, a detachment of volunteers consisting of 130 men, under the command of Capt. Campbell, marched from Queenston to strengthen the escort. Just as the troops under Captain C. reached the spot where the escort had halted, about 500 Indians, who had been concealed behind the mound, sprang from their covert with savage yells, and like so many tigers began an indiscriminate slaughter of the troops, who were thrown into the utmost confusion. Resistance against such odds did not long continue, and those of the party who were not killed or driven from the precipice with their teams, attempted their escape by flight. In the midst of the conflict, Stedman sprang upon a small horse, and giving the faithful animal a slap on the neck with his hand, it bore him over the dead and dying, and through the thick ranks of the foe, who discharged their rifles, and hurled their tomahawks in vain at his head. It has been stated that an Indian early seized the bridle-rein of Stedman's horse, which the latter cut loose.
Of those who jumped directly down the precipice in front, some seventy or eighty feet, which has an uneven surface below, only one escaped with life. This was a soldier named Mathews, from whom these particulars were obtained by the tourist. He was then living on the Canada shore, near Niagara, and familiarly called Old Brittania. Several trees were growing from the bottom of the hole, the tops of which reached near the surface of the ground. Into one of these trees Corporal Noble leaped and hung, in which position eleven bullets riddled his body. Captain Johnson, of the escort, was killed, and Lieut. Duncan, of the relief, a native of Long Island, and a promising young officer, was wounded in the left arm, of which he died. The whole number of troops and teamsters was about 175, of this number only some 25 escaped with life, and all of them, except Stedman and Mathews, did so below or near the north end of the hole, at a little sand ridge, which served to break the fall. Of Capt. Campbell's command, only eleven escaped with life. The loss of the enemy was inconsiderable compared with that of the British. A short time after this horrible affair, the Indians, who considered Stedman a charmed man, gave him as a reward for his daring feat, a large tract of land, which embraced all that he rode over in his previous flight. He returned to England, taking along his favorite horse, and never afterwards would he allow it to be saddled or harnessed.
My friend Tiffany, in whose journal I find the above facts, first visited the Devil's Hole, with a relative, August 10, 1806,at which time he entered it by descending a tree, to search for evidences of the event related. In the bottom of the chasm he found the sculls of several oxen "mouldering and covered with moss," a piece of a wagon, and the small part of a born ; which latter relic he took from the place, and after retaining it in his possession 38 year's, he kindly presented to the author. It is now in the State Cabinet.
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