History From America's Most Famous Valleys
The Book of
Especially Relating to The Early Palatines and the First Settlers in the
Compiled and Arranged by Lou D. MacWethy
Published by The Enterprise and News
St. Johnsville, NY., 1933
Militia, 4th Regiment
Col. Peter Bellinger
Reviewed and edited by L. F. Bellinger, Lt. Com. U. S. N., Retired, of Atlanta, Ga. Mr. Bellinger is the author of the Bellinger Family series and has spent many years in research pertaining to the Revolutionary period in the Mohawk Valley.
The Fourth Regiment known as Bellinger's was recruited from the man power of the German Flatts settlement and included the former Kingsland or Fairfield district. It was composed of many Seasoned veterans of the French wars of 1757 and all of the older people remembered vividly the destruction of their village in November of that year. Samuel L. Frey, in his notes in the back of his work, "Minute Book of the Committee of Safety," says: "Peter Bellinger, Colonel of the Fourth Regiment, Tryon County Militia, was born 1726. He married Delia Herkimer. He was a most efficient officer and a ardent patriot. He led his regiment at Oriskany. Lt. Colonel Frederick Bellinger, of the same regiment was taken prisoner, There were Thirty Bellingers in the service. At a meeting of Committee of Safety August 26, 1775 he appears as a Lt. Colonel for the German Flatts and Kingsland Regiment. The Colonel selected was Honyoost Herkimer who died. This advanced Peter Bellinger to the rank of colonel. At the same meeting col. Nicholas Herkimer was chosen as delegate from the four districts as Chief Colonel and Commander."
Col. Peter Bellinger HELD the frontier!
Fort Stanwix was an outpost, burned at midday two years before the end of the war by its own garrison no doubt.
With houses, barns, farm buildings and crops burned; with cattle, food, animals and horses driven off, there was no material object for the inhabitants of German Flatts to remain in that vicinity. They started to leave! Had they left German Flatts, Canajoharie would have become the frontier town. Col. Peter held the people in German Flatts by threatening to take their few remaining effects from them. With crops destroyed and with nothing to eat, how could any of them be held? In a cataclysm in San Francisco followed by fire, it required presidential authority backed by promises of congressional leaders of both parties to enact special legislation, before the army fed the destitute. Col. Peter could not await orders. The initiative was his, and his only. He ordered rations to be issued the sufferers from the supplies at Fort Herkimer, and reported his action through proper channels to the governor, who disclaimed in writing any responsibility for, and the consequences of this act. The governor's brothers, Gen. James Clinton criticized that use of rations, stating that some were not destitute enough to feed on government rations.
Nevertheless, both men and women mounted guard twice daily, walked post in Fort Herkimer and Fort Dayton and held the frontier through the perilous years to 1779 to 1783. What could the politicians do to Col. Peter in consequence of this prompt action? Evidently Col. Peter agreed in the though accompanying that query. The next move was up to the politicians and they forgot all about it so far as following up the breach of regulations was concerned.
Peter's action at Oriskany is alone sufficient to commend him to us forever!
Quoted from Max Reid's "Mohawk Valley" is the following:
General Herkimer "ordered Col. Bellinger and the soldiers who had not yet crossed the causeway to retake the hill. Dashing through the hail of lead on both flanks the stalwart Palatine Germans stormed the hillside firing to kill as they went and then meeting their antagonists with the swinging blows of clubbed muskets. Regaining the hilltop, they formed themselves into circular squads, leaving the bottom of the fatal ravine to the dead and dying" * * * After three-quarters of an hour the enemy began to concentrate upon the Americans from all points. * * * "Noticing this movement the Americans on the plateau formed themselves into circles and their resistance from that moment became more effective." * * * Col. Peter's rush at the enemy had caused them to forsake their American prisoners temporarily and as Adam Miller relates, the Palatines who were prisoners from the rear guard, immediately joined Col. Peter's men and reentered the fight. * * * * The General withdrew the troops under Col. Bellinger and Capt. Jacob Gardinier from the east side of the ravine. "Formed into a circle, each man protected by a tree or log, they were ordered to adopt a new mode of bush fighting * * * two men to take each tree." Capt. Gardinier's men after being rescued by Col. Peter as related, fought the major part of the battle under Col. Peter.
Oriskany cannot compare with modern battles in numbers engaged, though "Many important battles" of the War of 1812 had less than 1000, and some less than 500 engaged. In per cent of casualties, (Committee of Safety reported 150 returned safely) and in the important consequences resultant from the battle, it ranks high in historical works entitled "Decisive Battles of America." Some New Englanders may not call Oriskany a "Battle", but it certainly was a FIGHT!
What won that fight?
In any surprise and ambush confusion reigns. Ordinary military tactics were useless in the swamp and woods. So far as is known, only two tactical orders were given, viz:
"Put two men behind each tree."
"Form the men in circles." (They were surrounded.)
St. Leger's success meant supplies and reinforcements for Burgoyne, with no necessity for the Battle of Bennington, fought ten days after Oriskany. The fight at Oriskany insured the surrender of Burgoyne. Burgoyne's surrender insured the French alliance. The French fleet insured the surrender of Yorktown. Oriskany made possible the birth of the new nation. Oriskany was made possible by the directive actions of two men, General Herkimer and his brother-in-law Col. Peter Bellinger, each giving one of the two orders mentioned above.
Their action is memorialized in the picture of Oriskany by Chaplin, described by the late Col. John W. Vrooman, as quoted:
"It has General Herkimer at the left talking with Colonel Bellinger. Both men are pointing. Mr. Petrie is bandaging General Herkimer's wounded leg."
This picture was rediscovered by Harry V. Bush of Canajoharie. From the Battle of Oriskany, August 1777 to the Battle of German Flatts, Col. Peter Bellinger carried on as The Frontiersman of New York!
Reid's, "The Mohawk Valley," pp. 423, 424
U. S. Pensions of Revolutionary War, numbered S 23644 and R17772.
Clinton's "Public Papers," Vol. IV, page 49.
Greene's "Old Fort Plain," Page 363.
New York Historical Association, "New York History," January, 1928, page 102; April, 1932, page 129.
Killed at Oriskany
2. Died in Action.
3. Prisoner of war.
5. Engaged at Oriskany.
The letter after the name refers to a note in the next section.
Col. Peter Bellinger 5
Quarter Master Peter Bellinger, Jr.
Tinus Clappsaddle 1
Dygert, Wm. 5
Demuth, Hans Mark 3-6-5
Frank, Frederick 5
Herder, Henrig 5
Small, Jacob 2
Folts, Jacob 5
Petry, Detrick Marcus 1
Helmer, George 6
Weber, George A.
Walrath, Henry 3
Starring, Adam A.
Bellinger, Johannes F. 2 (B)
Hiller, Jacob 1
Iser, frederick 1
Additional officers taken from original pay rolls before the Capitol in Albany was burned, and taken fromt he original U. S. Pension application papers.
*John Adam F. Helmer, Hans Marcus Demuth and Johan Jost Folts, were the three scouts selected by Gen. Herkimer to penetrate the enemy lines and carry a message to Gen. Gansevoort of the beleaguered Fort Stanwix. The identity of the 3rd scout Johan Jost Folts was not discovered until 1930 when Lt. L. F. Bellinger rescued the information from pension papers of John Adam F. Helmer, later published in full in the Helmer Family book by Pascoe William and issued from the Enterprise press of St. Johnsville. John Adam F. Helmer appears as a private in Bellinger's regiment but he was a lieutenant in the Rangers (Scouts) under Captain John Bigbread. The exploit of these three scouts in reaching Fort Stanwix is classed among the outstanding examples of personal bravery in the Revolutionary war.
Capt. Hans Marcus Demuth was related tot eh other two scouts but just how is not known. Johan Jost Folts married a Bellinger girl and Helmer also. Capt. Peter Bellinger was father-in-law to the following patriots: Lt. Adam F. Helmer the scout; Lt. Timothy Frank, Sergt. George Smith, the expert penman; Christian Scherer, prisoner of war; Abraham Lighthall, pensioner; Abraham Wohleber, pensioner who was scalped and his feet frozen.
Bellinger, Hannes A. ? (I don't know why this is here!)
References from the list, 4th Regiment.
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