History From America's Most Famous Valleys
BRANT AND RED JACKET
by Elizabeth Eggleston Seelye
Assisted by Edward Eggleston
Dodd, Mead and Company, Publishers, 1879.
BRANT'S BATTLE ON THE DELAWARE.
BRANT had planned some great winter expedition. But Colonel George Rogers Clarke * had struck his wonderful and successful blow at the western posts of Vincennes and Kaskaskia, which for a time paralyzed the Indians. In the midsummer of 1779 the town of Minisink, on the Navisink River, near the border of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, was left unprotected, except by its own inhabitants. With a band of sixty Mohawks and twenty-seven Tories disguised as Indians, Brant stole upon the Minisink people, whose first warning was the burning of houses. Most of the inhabitants fled, but some were killed and others taken captive. The houses were plundered and burned, property destroyed, and cattle driven away. His object accomplished, Brant swiftly moved away, joining his main force at Grassy Brook.
* See "Life of Tecumseh" in this series.
The flying inhabitants had run to Goshen. Here Colonel Tusten called together the militia. The colonel himself thought it unwise to undertake the pursuit of Brant, as the Indian force was probably greatly superior to the militia. Many of the men did not agree with him, however, and one of the officers jumped upon his horse, waved his sword, and called out, " Let the brave men follow me, the cowards may stay behind!"
There was no more debate, and a hundred and fifty men marched out against the chief's great force. As they neared the Indians, they discovered the deserted camp. Here were many campfires still smouldering, and it was evident that Brant's force was much superior to the band which was marching against it, but the men would not listen to prudent advice. They hurried on. A scout was killed. Still they pushed forward, until they reached the hills of the Delaware River. Brant's forces could be seen in full view, three quarters of a mile away, marching toward a fording place. The American commander, Colonel Hathorn, resolved to intercept the Indians at the ford. Preparing for this manoeuvre, the Americans were obliged to move through the woods, losing sight of the enemy. Brant suspected the manoeuvre of Colonel Hathorn. He instantly wheeled about, and threw himself in the rear of his enemy. The Americans reached the ford to find the Indians gone. They halted. A small body of Indians showed themselves in an unexpected quarter. Brant, according to his own account, stepped forward and hailed the colonel.
" My force in ambush is very great," said the chief, frankly. " It is strong enough to destroy you. Now, before any blood has been shed, I can control my warriors, but if the battle once begins I cannot."
But Brant said the Americans refused to parley, and fired upon him. At any rate, the battle began about eleven o'clock in the morning. Brant gave the war-whoop, and the Indians rushed in upon the enemy from all sides. They succeeded in cutting off one third of Hathorn's forces from the main body. The Americans were short of ammunition.
"Don't fire until you're very sure your powder won't be wasted," cried the commander. The battle was a long one. Gradually the brave Americans were hemmed in to an acre of land. Still their diminishing numbers kept the Indians at bay until sundown. Their ammunition was gone, and they attempted to retreat. The fierce savages, fiercer for the long resistance, rushed upon them with the tomahawk. Colonel Tusten, who was a physician, was dressing the wounds of his men behind the rocks when the retreat began. He and his wounded men fell victims. But thirty men escaped the tomahawk.
Brant told long afterwards a strange incident of this battle-field. After the battle was over, in moving- around among- the dead the chief discovered a prominent citizen of Goshen, Lieutenant Wisner, still alive. Brant examined his wounds, and saw that there was no hope of his recovery, though Wisner was able to talk and aware of everything that went on around him. " Now," thought the chief, " what shall I do ? I cannot carry this man away. It would be cruel to leave him here to die a lingering death. Besides, when we are gone the wolves will be here to increase his tortures." Brant decided that the best thing he could do would be to put the dying man quickly out of his misery, and that without wounding- his feelings. He talked with him a moment pleasantly, and having thus distracted his attention, unperceived by Wisner he suddenly struck him dead with his tomahawk.
One man during the massacre following the battle had made a sign indicating that he was a freemason. Brant immediately saved his life, but was very indignant when he discovered that the man was not a member of the order. He spared his life, but treated him harshly; nothing could exceed his scorn for the man who had thus imposed upon him. The captive on his part, it is said, felt bound to join the order immediately on his release from a long captivity.
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