History From America's Most Famous Valleys
Campaign of Lieut. Gen. John Burgoyne
and The Expedition of Lieut. Col. Barry St. Leger.
by William L. Stone.
Albany, NY, Joel Munsell. 1877.
THE EXPEDITION OF LIEUT. COLONEL BARRY ST. LEGER.
CONTEMPORANEOUSLY with the descent of Burgoyne upon Northern New York, Colonel Barry St. Leger, as stated in Part First, had been despatched from Montreal, by the way of the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario, to Oswego, there to form a junction with the Indians and loyalists under Sir John Johnson and Captain Brant. From Oswego, St. Leger was to penetrate by the way of Oneida lake and Wood creek to the Mohawk river, with a view of forming a junction from that direction with Burgoyne, on his arrival in Albany.2 The alarm everywhere felt on the approach of Burgoyne from the North, was greatly increased in Tryon county, on receiving intelligence of the contemplated invasion by the Indians and loyalists from the West. The news of this movement was first brought
1 This account is taken, in the main, from my father's Life of Brant - as being the most accurate and thorough narration of St. Leger's expedition yet written. I have, however, added a number of notes and made a few additions to the text.
2 Burgoyne's State of the Expedition, Appendix, p. xii.
to the inhabitants by an Oneida half-breed sachem named Thomas Spencer, who came therewith direct from Canada, whither he had gone as a secret emissary to obtain information. Spencer stated that he had been present at a council held at the Indian castle of Cassassenny, at which Colonel Claus presided.1 According to Thomas's relation, Colonel Claus strongly urged the Indians to join in the expedition into the Mohawk valley by the western approach ; boasting of the strength of the army under Burgoyne, which had gone against Ticonderoga, and the number of Indians with them, and before whom he assured them Ticonderoga would fall. " Yes," said Colonel Claus, " Ticonderoga is mine. This is true : you may depend on it, and not one gun shall be fired." Singularly enough, though improbable at the time, the prediction, as we have seen, was literally fulfilled. " The same," added the superintendent, " is true of Fort Schuyler. I am sure that when I come before that fort, and the commanding officer shall see me, he also will not fire a shot, but will surrender the fort to me." The Oneida sachem farther informed the people that Sir John Johnson and Colonel Claus were then at Oswego with their families, with seven hundred Indians and four hundred regular troops. There were also six hundred tories on one of the islands above Oswegatchie preparing to join them ; and Colonel Butler was to arrive at Oswego on the 14th of July from Niagara, to hold a
1 Colonel Daniel Claus, a brother-in-law of Sir John Johnson, had either superseded Guy Johnson as Indian superintendent in Canada, or been appointed a deputy.
Council with the Six Nations, to all of whom he would offer the hatchet to join them and strike the Americans. Thomas thereupon concluded his communication in the following speech :
" BROTHERS : Now is your time to awake, and not to sleep longer ; or, on the contrary, it shall go with Fort Schuyler as it went already with Ticonderoga.
" BROTHERS : I therefore desire you to be spirited, and to encourage one another to march on to the assistance of Fort Schuyler. Come up, and show yourselves as men, to defend and save your country before it is too late. Dispatch yourselves to clear the brush about the fort, and send a party to cut trees in the Wood creek to stop up the same.
" BROTHERS : If you don't come soon, without delay, to assist this place, we cannot stay much longer on your side; for if you leave this fort without succor, and the enemy shall get possession thereof, we shall suffer like you in your settlements, and shall be destroyed with you. We are suspicious that your enemies have engaged the Indians, and endeavor daily yet to strike and fight against you , and General Schuyler refuses always that we shall take up arms in the country's behalf.
" BROTHERS : I can assure you, that as soon as Butler's speech at Oswego shall be over, they intend to march down the country immediately to Albany. You may judge yourselves that if you don't try to resist, we shall be obliged to join them or fly from our castles, as we cannot hinder them alone. We, the good friends of the country, are of opinion, that if more force appears at Fort Schuyler, the enemy will not move from Oswego to invade these frontiers. You may depend on it we are willing to help you if you will do some efforts too."
counsel of the faithful Oneida was neither early enough, nor was it seconded
with sufficient promptitude ; on the part of the inhabitants. Indeed, it must
be confessed,that, as the storm of was rolled onward, gathering at once from
different directions, and threatening daily to break upon them with increasing
fury, many of the yeoman who had hitherto borne themselves nobly, began to
falter. A spirit of disaffection had also been more widely diffused among
the settlements than could have been supposed from the previous patriotic
conduct of the people, while treason lurked in many places where least suspected.
Upon this subject, and with special reference to the popular feeling and conduct
in Tryon county, John Jay, then sitting in the state convention at Kingston,
addressed the following letter to Gouverneur Morris, a member of the council
of safety, who was at that time with General Schuyler in the North :
JOHN JAY TO GOVERNEUR MORRIS.
Kingston, July 21st, 1777.
" DEAR MORRIS,
" The situation of Tryon county is both shameful and alarming. Such abject dejection and despondency, as mark the letters we have received from thence, disgrace human nature. God knows what to do with, or for them. Were they alone interested in their fate, I should be for leaving their cart in the slough till they would put their shoulders to the wheel.
" Schuyler has his enemies here, and they use these things to his disadvantage. Suspicions of his having been privy to the evacuation of Ticonderoga spread wide , and twenty little circumstances, which perhaps are false, are trumped up to give color to the conjecture.1 We could wish that your letters might contain paragraphs for the public. We are silent because we have nothing to say ; and the people suspect the worst because we say nothing. Their curiosity must be constantly gratified, or they will be uneasy. Indeed, I do not wonder at their impatience, the late northern events having been
1 Reference has already been made, in the text of Part First, to the injustice done towards General Schuyler during this memorable year. There was probably no officer in the service, the commander-in-chief alone excepted, who was considered by the enemy so great an obstacle, to the success of their arms. A narrow sectional prejudice existed against him in New England. The failure of the Canadian campaign had been most wrongfully attributed to him in 1776, and with equal injustice the fall of Ticonderoga was now charged to his remissness by his own countrymen. The enemy were not slow to avail themselves of these prejudices and groundless imputations, and through the agency of the Tories, the most artful and insidious means were employed to destroy the public confidence in his integrity and capacity. The flame of suspicion was fanned by them until it became general, and was openly avowed. Committees, towns, and districts, assembled, and passed resolves expressing their distrust in him, and both congress and the provincial legislature of New York were addressed upon the subject. General Schuyler, than whom there was not a truer patriot, nor a more earnest or active in the public service, was well aware of these movements. To a committee of the provincial congress, who had formally communicated the charges to him, he returned an answer worthy of a brave and magnanimous soldier. The character of this answer will be understood from this single sentence : " We must bear with the caprice, jealousy, and envy of our misguided friends, and pity them."
such as to have occasioned alarm and suspicion. I have not leisure to add
anything more, than that I am, very sincerely, yours, etc.
As early as the loth of April, Colonel Robert Van Rensselaer wrote to a friend, that the chairman of the county committee had applied to him for the assistance of his militia, to quell an insurrection of the loyalists in Ballston, but such was the condition of his own regiment, that he was obliged to decline the request. The spirit of disaffection had become so prevalent among his men, that numbers of them had taken the oath of secrecy and allegiance to Great Britain. However, he added that seventeen of the villains had been arrested by the vigilance of the officers, and were then in confinement, and a hope was indulged of being able to detect the whole. 1 Early in the following month the residue of the Roman Catholic Scotch settlers in the neighborhood of Johnstown ran off to Canada, together with some of the loyalist Germans - all headed by two men named M'Donald, who had been permitted by General Schuyler to visit their families. The fact that the wives and families of the absconding loyalists were holding communications with them, and administering to their subsistence on the outskirts of the settlements, had suggested their arrest, and removal to a place of safety, to the number of four hundred - a measure that was approved
1 MS. documents in the Department of State, Albany.
by General Herkimer 1 and his officers. 2 Alarming reports of various descriptions were continually in circulation, and the inhabitants were harassed beyond measure by the necessity of performing frequent tours of military duty-acting as scouts and reconnoitering parties ; and standing, some of them, as sentinels around their fields, while others did the labor. No neighborhood felt secure, and all were apprehensive that the whole country would be ravaged by the Indians ; while parties of the disaffected were continually stealing away to augment the ranks of the enemy. Thus circumstanced, and at the very moment when they were called upon to reinforce Fort Schuyler, the committee both of Palatine and Schoharie, feeling that they were not strong enough even for self-defence, were calling upon the council of safety at Albany to send additional forces for their protection. Mr. Paris wrote repeatedly upon the subject. The Schoharie committee, on the 17th of July, wrote very frankly, that " the late advantages gained by the enemy had such an effect, that many who had been counted as friends of the state were drawing back. " Our situation," he added, " is deplorable - excepting those who have sought protection from the enemy. We are entirely open to the Indians and tories, whom we expect every hour to come upon us. Part of our militia are at Fort Edward ;
1 Herkheimer (Ergheimer'), by which name he was known-was a man in the prime of years, between forty-six and fifty, and a son of the soil - a tiller of it who had amassed an honest independence by labor and frugality.
2 MS. documents in the Department of State, Albany-Letter of Isaac Paris.
and of the few that are here, many are unwilling to take up arms to defend themselves, as they are unable to stand against so many enemies. Therefore if your honors do not grant us immediate relief to the amount of about five hundred men, we must either fall a prey to the enemy, or take protection also."1 On the 18th of July, General Schuyler wrote to the Hon. Pierre Van Courtlandt, from Saratoga, and again on the 21st from Fort Edward, to the same effect. " I am exceedingly chagrined," he says, " at the pusillanimous spirit which prevails in the county of Tryon. I apprehend much of it is to be attributed to the infidelity of the leading persons of that quarter." " If I had one thousand regular troops, in addition to those now above and on the march, I should venture to keep only every third man of the militia, and would send them down." " The substance of Colonel Harper's information had been transmitted about a month ago. In consequence whereof, I sent Colonel Van Schaick into Tryon county with as many troops as I could collect. After the improper agreement made by General Herkimer, 2 these troops were marched back ; but as soon as I was informed of the march, I ordered them to remain in Tryon county, where they are still, and I have sent up Colonel Wesson's regiment to reinforce them. But if I may be allowed to judge of the temper of General Herkimer and the committee of Tryon
1 MS. correspondence with the Provincial Congress-Secretary's office, Albany.
2 Probably referring to the interview between Herkimer and Brant at Unadilla.
county, from their letters to me, nothing will satisfy them unless I march the whole army into that quarter. With deference to the better judgment of the council of safety, I cannot by any means think it prudent to bring on an open rupture with the savages at the present time. The inhabitants of Tryon county are already too much inclined to lay down their arms, and take whatever terms the enemy may please to afford them. Half the militia from this (Tryon-) county, and the neighboring state of Massachusetts, we have been under the necessity of dismissing ; but the whole should go." " I enclose you the proceedings of a council of general officers, held at this place on the 20th instant. You will perceive that we have been driven to the necessity of allowing some of the militia to return to their plantation. The remainder have promised to remain three weeks longer-that is to say, unless they choose to return sooner, which will doubtless be the case, and for which they have many reasons."1
The complaints of General Schuyler were not without just foundation, as the reader has already seen. Indeed, both regulars and militia in Tryon county, seemed for the moment to have lost all the high qualities of soldiers or citizens. Of two hundred militiamen ordered to muster and join the garrison of Fort Schuyler, only a part obeyed ; while two companies of regular troops, receiving the like orders, entered upon the service with great reluctance, and not without urging various excuses-
1 MS. Cor. Council of Safety-Secretary's office, Albany.
complaining that service in scouting parties had unfitted them for garrison duty. 1 Under circumstances of such discouragement, it was a time of peculiar trial to the officers and committee of safety. Tryon county had early espoused the cause of freedom, and apparently with greater unanimity than any other county in the state; and the extensive defection, or criminal apathy, which we have just been contemplating, was altogether unexpected. But a crisis was approaching, which necessity soon obliged them to meet. Accordingly, on the 17th of July, General Herkimer issued a patriotic proclamation to the inhabitants of the county, announcing the gathering of the enemy at Oswego, " Christians and savages," to the number of two thousand strong, with the intention of invading the frontier, and calling upon the people en masse to be ready at a moment's warning to repair to the field, with arms and accoutrements, on the approach of the enemy. Those in health, from sixteen to sixty years of age, were designated for actual service ; while those above sixty years of age, or invalids, were directed to arm for the defence of the women and children at whatever place they might be gathered in for safety. Concerning the disaffected, and those who might refuse to obey the orders, it was directed in the proclamation that they should be arrested, their arms secured, and themselves placed under guard to join the main body. All the members of the committee, and all those who, by reason of having formerly held commissions, had become
1 Annals of Tryon County.
exempts from service, were invited to repair to the rendezvous, and aid in repulsing the foe : " not doubting that the Almighty Power, upon our humble prayers, and sincere trust in Him, will then graciously succor our arms in battle for our just cause, and victory cannot fail on our side."
The Oneida Indians, who were sincerely disposed to favor the cause of the United States, but who, pursuant to the humane policy of congress and the advice of General Schuyler, had determined to preserve their neutrality, beheld the approaching invasion from Oswego with no small degree of apprehension. The course they had marked out for themselves, as they were well aware, was viewed with displeasure by their Mohawk brethren, while the other members of their confederacy were obviously inclined to side with their " Uncle."1 Living, moreover, in the immediate neighborhood of Fort Schuyler, where St. Leger's first blow must be struck, they were not a little troubled in the prospect of what might happen to themselves. The watchful Thomas Spencer, therefore, despatched the following letter to the committee on the 29th of July which was received on the 30th:
" At a meeting of the chiefs, they tell me that there is but four days remaining of the time set for the king's troops to come to Fort Schuyler, and they think it likely they will be here sooner.
1 In the Six Nations, the Mohawks - the head tribe - were called " uncle." The Oneidas were " the elder brother," etc.
"The chiefs desire the commanding officers at Fort Schuyler not to make a Ticonderoga of it ; but they hope you will be courageous.
" They desire General Schuyler may have this with speed, and send a good army here , there is nothing to do at New York ; we think there is men to be spared - we expect the road is stopped to the inhabitants by a party through the woods , we shall be surrounded as soon as they come. This may be our last advice, as these soldiers are part of those that are to hold a treaty. Send this to the committee-as soon as they receive it, let the militia rise up and come to Fort Schuyler.
" To-morrow we are a-going to the Three rivers 1 to the treaty. We expect to meet the warriors, and when we come there and declare we are for peace, we expect to be used with indifference and sent away.
" Let all the troops that come to Fort Schuyler take care on their march, as there is a party of Indians to stop the road below the fort, about 80 or 100. We hear they are to bring their cannon up Fish creek. We hear there is 1000 going to meet the enemy. We advise not- the army is too large for so few men to defend the fort - we send a belt of eight rows to confirm the truth of what we say.
" It looks likely to me the troops are near -hope all friends to liberty, and that love their families, will not be backward, but exert themselves ; as one resolute blow
1 The junction of the Oneida, Seneca, and Oswego rivers - not Three Rivers in Canada.
would secure the friendship of the Six Nations, and almost free this part of the country from the incursions of the enemy." 1
The certainty that the invaders were thus approaching, the earnestness of the appeals of the committee to the patriotism of the people, the influence of the proclamation of the German general, who was a much better man than officer, save only in the single attribute of courage; and, above all, the positive existence of a common danger from which there was no escape; were circumstances, together, not without their effect. And although the eleventh hour had arrived, yet the militia, and all upon whom the call to arms had been made, now began to move with a degree of alacrity and an exhibition of spirit that went far to atone for the unpatriotic, if not craven, symptoms already noticed.
Meantime, having completed his organization at Oswego, Lieut. Colonel St. Leger commenced his march upon Fort Schuyler, moving by the route already indicated, though with great circumspection. The name of this place of rendezvous has already recurred more than once, or twice, in the preceding pages. Its position was important, and it had been a place of renown in the earlier wars of the colony. The river bearing the same name, which here pours northwardly into Lake Ontario, is the outlet both of the Oneida and
1 MS letter among the papers of General Gansevoort. Thomas Spencer was a blacksmith, who had resided among the Cayugas, and was greatly beloved by the Indians.-Letter from General Schuyler to Colonel Dayton - Gansevoort papers.
Seneca rivers, through which, and their tributary streams, it is connected with the chain of small lakes bearing the names of Oneida, Cazenovia, Skaneateles, Owasco, Cayuga, Seneca, and Canandaigua. Its estuary, of course, forms the natural opening into the rich district of country surrounding these lakes, which, down to the period of the present history, contained the principal towns of four of the five nations of Indians. During the wars between the French and Five Nations, Oswego was repeatedly occupied by the armies of the former. It was here that- Count Frontenac landed, on his invasion of the Onondaga country in 1692, at which time, or subsequently, a considerable military work was erected on the western side of the river. During the war with France, which was closed in America by the conquest in Canada, it was in the occupancy of the Provincials and English. The expedition destined to descend the St. Lawrence upon Montreal, was assembled at this point in 1759, after the fall of Niagara, under General Shirley and Sir William Johnson. The army was encamped here several weeks, and finally broke up without attempting its main object - owing, as Sir William Johnson intimates in his private diary, to a want of energy on the part of Shirley. After the fall of Quebec and Montreal into the hands of the English, a battalion of the 55th regiment was stationed at Oswego, under Major Duncan, a brother of the naval hero of Camperdown. A new and far more formidable work was constructed upon the eastern or northeastern promontory, formed by the embouchure of the river into the lake. The new position was far better chosen for a fortress than the old, and, ultimately, before the Britons were dispossessed of it by the Americans, it became a work of somewhat formidable strength and dimensions. The situation is one of the most beautiful that can be imagined ; and during the two or three years in which Major Duncan was in command, by the cultivation of a large garden, the laying out and improving of a bowling-green and other pleasure-grounds, it was rendered a little paradise in the wilderness. 1
All told, the army of St. Leger consisted of seventeen hundred men - Indians included. These latter were led by Thayendanegea. The order of their march as beautifully drawn and colored, was subsequently taken, with the escritoire of the commanding general. The advance of the main body, was formed of Indians, marching in five Indian columns ; that -is, in single files, at large distances from each other, and four hundred and sixty paces in front of the line. From these columns of Indians, files were stretched at a distance of ten paces from each other, forming a line of communication with the advanced guard of the line, which was one hundred paces in front of the column. The right and left flanks were covered by Indians at one hundred paces, forming likewise lines of communication with the main body. The king's regiment moved from the left by Indian file, while the 34th moved in
1 See Mrs. Grant's delightful book-Memoirs of an American Lady, chapters xliv to xlvii inclusive, Munsell's edition, 1876.
the same order from the right. The rear guard was formed of regular troops, while the advance guard, composed of sixty marksmen, detached from Sir John Johnson's regiment of Royal Greens, was led by Sir John's brother-in-law, Captain Watts. Each corps was likewise directed to have ten chosen marksmen in different parts of its line, in case of attack, to be pushed forward to any given point as circumstances might require.1
From these extraordinary precautions, it may well be inferred that Lt. Col. St. Leger, who probably acted much under the advice of Sir John Johnson and the refugee Provincials, who must have been best acquainted with the country and the character of the enemy they were going to encounter, was not a little apprehensive of an attack by surprise while on his march.
In addition to the arrangements already indicated, a detachment from the 8th regiment, with a few Indians, was sent a day or more in advance, under the command of Lieutenant Bird. This officer pushed forward with spirit, but was somewhat annoyed by the insubordination and independent action of his allies. The following extracts from his private diary 2 will not only disclose his own embarrassments, but illustrate the character of Indian warriors acting in concert with regular troops:
1 MS. directions found among the captured papers of St. Leger.
2 MS. Diary of Lt. Henry Bird, captured from Lt. Col. St. Leger by Col. Gansevoort.
" Tuesday, 28th July, 1777.-After going two miles, and no savages coming up, waited two hours for them. Sixteen Senecas arriving, proceeded to the Three rivers 1-waited there two hours-seventy or eighty Messesaugues coming up, I proposed moving forward. They had stolen two oxen from the drove of the army, and would not advance, but stayed to feast. I advanced without Indians seven miles farther-in all nineteen miles. Posted four sentinels all night from a sergeant's guard of twelve men--relieved every hour-visited every half hour. All fires put out at nine o'clock.
" Wednesday.- Set off next morning at six, having wailed for the savages till that time, though none arrived. Ordered the boats to keep seventy rods behind each other-half the men keeping their arms in their hands, while the other half rowed. Ordered, on any of the boats being fired upon, that the men should jump ashore. The rest to support them with all expedition. Rowed all night. Encamped at Nine-mile point.
" Thursday, July 30.-With twenty-seven Senecas and nine Messesaugues joined Mr. Hair's party. 2 Many savages being with us, proceeded to Wood creek, a march of fifteen miles. *****
"Friday.-The savages hinted an intention to send parties to Fort Stanwix, but to proceed in a body no farther. I called a council of the chiefs-told them I had orders to approach near the fort - that if they
1 The junction of the Oneida, Seneca and Oswego rivers.
2 Lieut. Hair-afterward killed.
Would accompany me, I should be content; but if they would not go, I should take the white people under my command, and proceed myself. The Messesaugues said they would go with me. The Senecas said I had promised to be advised by their chiefs-that it was their way to proceed with caution. I answered, that I meant only as to fighting in the bush, but that -I had communicated my intentions to them in the former camp, of preventing them (the Americans meaning) from stopping the creek, 1 and investing their fort. But since I had promised to be advised by them, I would take it so far as to wait till next morning - and would then certainly march by daybreak. After some counselling, they seemed pleased with what I had said, and said they would send out large scouts to prepare the way. Accordingly eighteen or twenty set off this evening."
On the 2d of August, however, Bird wrote back to his general that no savages would advance with him except Henriques, a Mohawk, and one other of the Six Nations, an old acquaintance of his. The letter continues : " Those two, sir, I hope to have the honor to present to you. A savage, who goes by the name of Commodore Bradley, was the chief cause of their not advancing to-day. Twelve Messesaugues came up two or three hours after my departure. Those, with the scout of fifteen I had the honor to mention to you in
1 General Schuyler had directed the commanding officer of Fort Stanwix to obstruct the navigation of Wood creek by felling trees therein.
my last, are sufficient to invest Fort Stanwix, if you favor me so far as not to order to the contrary." 1
Leger received this letter on the same day, at Nine-mile point, whence he
immediately despatched the following reply :
GENERAL ST. LEGER TO LIEUT. BIRD.
"Nine Mile Point, Aug. 2, 1777.
"I this instant received your letter containing the account of your operations
since you were detached, which I with great pleasure tell you have been sensible
and spirited , your resolution of investing Fort Stanwix is perfectly right
; and to enable you to do it with greater effect, I have detached Joseph (Thayendanegea)
and his corps of Indians to reinforce you. You will observe that I will have
nothing but an investiture made ; and in case the enemy, observing the discretion
and judgment with which it is made, should offer to capitulate, you are to
tell them that you are sure I am well disposed to listen to them , this is
not to take any honor out of a young soldier's hands, but by the presence
of the troops to prevent the barbarity and carnage which will ever obtain
where Indians make so superior a part of a detachment ; I shall move from
hence at eleven o'clock, and be early in the afternoon at the entrance of
" I am, sir, your most obt. and humble ser't,
" Lieut. Bird, 8th reg't." 2 "BARRY ST. LEGER.
1 MS. of the original letter, among the Gansevoort papers.
2 MS. of the original letter, among the Gansevoort papers-Vide, also, Campbell's Annals.
The investment of the fort was made by Lieut. Bird forthwith-Brant arriving to his assistance at the same time. But the result of the siege that followed proved that the British commander had grievously miscalculated the spirit of the garrison of Fort Stanwix, in his anticipations of a speedy capitulation. Still, his prudential order, the object of which was to prevent an unnecessary sacrifice of life at the hands of his Indian allies, calculating, of course, upon an easy victory, was nut the less commendable on that account.
The situation of Fort Stanwix itself- or rather Fort Schuyler, as it must now be called - next demands attention. At the beginning of the year, as we have already seen, the post was commanded by Colonel Elmore of the state service. The term of that officer expiring in April, Colonel Peter Ganesvoort, also of the state troops, was designated as Colonel Elmore's successor, by an order from General Gates, dated the 26th of that month. Notwithstanding the labors of Colonel Drayton, in repairing the works, the preceding year. Colonel Gansevoort found them in such a state of dilapidation, that they were not only indefensible, but untenable. A brisk correspondence ensued between that officer and General Schuyler upon the subject, from which it is manifest that, to say nothing of the miserable condition of his defences, with the prospect of an invasion from the West before him, his situation was in other respects sufficiently deplorable. He had but a small number of men, and many of those were sick by reason of destitution.1 Added to all which was the responsibility of the Indian relations confided to him by special order of General Schuyler on the 9th of June.2
Colonel Marinus Willett was soon afterward directed to join the garrison at Fort Schuyler with his regiment, and most fortunate was the selection of such an officer as Willett to cooperate with such another as Gansevoort ; since all the skill, and energy, and courage of both were necessary for the situation. The work itself was originally a square fort, with four bastions, surrounded by a ditch of considerable width and depth, with a covert way and glacis around three of its angles ; the other being sufficiently secured by low, marshy ground. In front of the gate there had been a drawbridge, covered by a salient angle raised in front on the glacis. In the centre of the ditch a row of perpendicular pickets had been erected, with rows of horizontal pickets fixed around the ramparts under the embrasures. But since the conclusion of the French war, the fort had fallen into decay, the ditch was filled up, and the
1 Letters among the Gansevoort papers.
2 " You will keep up a friendly intercourse with the Indians, and suffer no speeches to be made to them by any person not employed in the Indian department; and when you have occasion to speak- to them, let your speech be written, and a copy transmitted to me, that the commissioners may be informed of every transaction with those people."-Schuyler's letter to Colonel Gansevoort. Colonel G. lost no time in holding a council with such of the chiefs and warriors as yet remained friendly, and he seems to have fully acquired their confidence. He delivered a sensible speech on the occasion, but it contains nothing requiring farther note.
the enemy, but they returned without being able to come up with them. This success will, no doubt, encourage them to send out a greater number , and the intelligence they may possibly acquire, will probably hasten the main body destined to act against us in these parts. Our provision is greatly diminished by reason of the spoiling of the beef, and the quantities that must be given from time to time to the Indians. It will not hold out above six weeks. Your Excellency will perceive, in looking over Captain Savage's return of the state of the artillery, that some essential articles are very scarce. As a great number of the gun-bullets do not suit the fire-locks, some bullet-moulds of different sizes for casting others, would be of great, advantage to us. Our stock of powder is absolutely too little ; a ton, in addition to what we have, is wanted as the lowest proportion for the shot we have on hand. We will, notwithstanding every difficulty, exert ourselves to the utmost of our power ; and if your Excellency will be pleased to order a speedy reinforcement, with a sufficient supply of provision and ammunition to enable us to hold out a siege, we will, I hope, by the blessing of God, be able to give a good account of any force that will probably come against us."
The picture is gloomy enough ; and was rendered the more so from the mistakes of the engineer, a Frenchman, who had been employed by General Schuyler, and whom it was ultimately found necessary to arrest and send back to head-quarters. 1 Colonel Willett had from the first
1 Willet's Narrative.
doubted the capacity of Marquizee, and after his dismissal the work proceeded for the most part under his own immediate direction.
The garrison had likewise other difficulties to encounter. With the gathering of St. Leger's motley forces at Oswego, preparatory to his descent upon the Mohawk, the Indians, as has already been seen by Gansevoort's letter, began to appear in scouting parties in the circumjacent forests. The utmost caution was therefore necessary on leaving the fort, even for a short distance. It was during this critical period that the familiar incident of Captain Gregg and his faithful dog occurred, of which the following brief account was given by Colonel Gansevoort:
GANSEVOORT TO GEN. SCHUYLER (EXTRACT).
"Fort Schuyler, June 26, 1777.
" I am sorry to inform your Honor that Captain Gregg and Corporal Madison, of my regiment, went out a gunning yesterday morning, contrary to orders. It seems they went out just after breakfast, and at about ten o'clock Corporal Madison was killed and scalped. Captain Gregg was shot through his back, tomahawked and scalped, and is still alive. He informs me that the misfortune happened about ten o'clock in the morning. He looked at his watch after he was scalped. He saw but two Indians. He was about one mile and a half from the fort, and was not discovered until two o'clock in the afternoon. I immediately sent out a party and had him brought into the fort, just after three o'clock ; also the corpse of Madison. Gregg is perfectly in his senses, and speaks strong and hearty, notwithstanding that his recovery is doubtful." 1
There was little of romance in Colonel Gansevoort, and he related the incident with military brevity. The story, however, has often been told, with a variety of amplifications, particularly in regard to the wounded soldier's faithful dog, to whose affectionate sagacity he is said to have been indebted for his discovery, if not his life. According to the narrative of President Dwight, it appears that Gregg and his companion had been seduced into a fatal disobedience of orders, by the clouds of pigeons appearing in the adjoining woods. Immediately upon their fall, the Indians rushed upon them for their scalps, which they took - giving each a simultaneous cut upon the head with their tomahawks. The corporal had been killed by the shot, but Captain Gregg was only wounded. 2 Feigning death, however, he had the presence of mind, and the fortitude, to submit to the subsequent torture without betraying himself by a groan or the quivering of a muscle. The Indians departing immediately, Captain Gregg crawled to his lifeless companion, and pillowed his head upon his body, while his
1 MS. of the original draught, among Col. Gansevoort's papers.
2 It has been asserted in history, that St. Leger encouraged these isolated murders by large bounties for scalps. Twenty dollars is said to have been the price he paid , but his despatch to Lieut. Bird, before cited, does not corroborate the charge of such inhumanity. That despatch was a private document, moreover, not written for the light, or for effect, and must therefore be received as true. It was found among Col. Gansevoort's papers.
faithful dog ran to a place at no great distance thence, where two men were engaged in fishing, and by his imploring looks and significant actions, induced them to follow him to the spot where lay his wounded master. Hastening to the fort, the fishermen reported what they had seen, and a party of soldiers being forthwith despatched to the place, the bodies of the wounded and the dead were speedily brought into the garrison, as we have seen from the; colonel's official account. Captain Gregg was severely wounded, independently of the scalping, and his case was for a long time critical.
The friendly Indians, then chiefly, if not exclusively, Oneidas, though still acting and speaking in the name of the Six Nations, presented an address of condolence to Colonel Gansevoort on this occasion, to which the latter made a suitable reply, which alone has been preserved, and reads as follows :
" BROTHER WARRIORS OF THE SIX NATIONS : I thank you for your good talk.
" BROTHERS : You tell us you are sorry for the cruel usage of Captain Gregg, and the murder of one of our warriors, that you would have immediately pursued the murderers, had not General Schuyler, General Gates, and the French general, desired you not to take any part in this war , and that you have obeyed their orders, and are resolved to do so. I commend your good inclination and intention.
" BROTHERS : You say you have sent a runner to the Six Nations, to inform them of what has happened, and that you expect some of your chiefs will look into the affair, and try to find out the murderers. You have done well. I shall be glad to smoke a pipe with your chiefs, and hope they will do as they speak.
" BROTHERS : I hope the mischief has been done, not by any of our good friends of the Oneida nation, but by the tories, who are enemies to you as well as to us, and who are ready to murder yourselves, your wives, and children, if you will not be as wicked as themselves.
BROTHERS : When your chiefs shall convince me that, Indians of the Six Nations have had no hand in this wicked thing, and shall use means to find out the murderers and bring them to justice, you may be assured that we will strengthen the chain of friendship, and embrace you as our good brothers. I will not suffer any of our warriors to hurt you." The address contained two or three additional paragraphs in reference to other subjects. Captain Gregg recovered, and resumed his duties ; and having served to the end of the war, lived many years afterward.
Another tragic incident occurred at nearly the same time. About noon, on the 3d of July, the day being perfectly clear, Colonel Willett was startled from his siesta by the report of musketry. Hastening to the parapet of the glacis, he saw a little girl running with a basket in her hand, while the blood was trickling down her bosom. On investigating the facts, it appeared that the girl, with two others, 1 was picking berries, not two
1 One of the girls was Caty Steese, a servant of Capt. Johannis Roff (Roof) which was the cause of his attempt to do violence to Cornplanter when, in 1797, he confessed to having killed her (Brant, vol. II, p. 411, note).-Letter from Col. Gansevoort to Col. Van Schaick, July 25th, 1777.
hundred yards from the fort, when they were fired upon by a party of Indians, and two of the number killed. Happily, she who only was left to tell the tale, was but slightly wounded. One of the girls killed, was the daughter of an invalid, who had served many years in the British artillery. He was entitled to a situation in Chelsea hospital, but had preferred rather to remain in the cultivation of a small piece of ground at Fort Stanwix, than again to cross the ocean. 1
By the middle of July, the Indians hovering about the fort became so numerous, and so bold, as to occasion great annoyance. Large parties of soldiers could only venture abroad on the most pressing emergencies, and even one of these was attacked, several of its numbers killed and wounded, and the officer in command taken prisoner. The force of the garrison, at this time, consisted of about five hundred and fifty men - ill-supplied, as we have already seen, both with provisions and munitions of war. Fortunately, however, on the 2d of August, the very day of the investiture of the fort by the advance of St. Leger's army, under Thayendanegea and Bird, Lieutenant Colonel Mellon, of Colonel Weston's regiment, arrived with two hundred men, and two bateaux of provisions and military stores. Not a moment was lost in conveying these opportune supplies into the fort. Delay would, indeed, have been dangerous ; for at the instant the last loads arrived at the fort, the enemy appeared on the skirt of the forest, so near to the boats, that the captain who commanded them became their prisoner. 2
1 Willett's Narrative.
2 Willett's Narrative.
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